RESIDENTS were reduced to tears after an emotional plea not to close a dementia day care service in Wellington.

It was standing room only at Wellington Town Council on Monday night (November 12) as people turned out in dozens to voice their opinion.

Director of social care at Somerset County Council Stephen Chandler attended the meeting to further explain the closure of Somerset Care care home Popham Court, but found himself bombarded by questions about the closure of Stratfield House - an item not on the agenda.

Somerset County Council has decided to stop the service when its contract with Somerset Partnership concludes in January.

The director fielded questions from a number of residents who have family members who rely on the service.

Tara James, whose father Keith uses the service, said: “My father uses Stratfield House daily.

“It took my stepmum having a break down to get her there.

“We use it so she can go to work.

“There are no other facilities where you can go as a day case for care with dementia in a secure building.

“He should be able to remain in the town he lives in. He shouldn’t have to go to other towns.

“It’s a real need in the community but people aren’t sure what the service does.”

Her brother, Mark Rowland, said: “My main worry is we will have a death on our hands if someone goes walkabouts. Could you have that on your shoulders?”

Mr Chandler claims the service is ‘outdated’ and fewer people are using it, but also admitted his social workers were no longer prioritising day hospitals when making referrals.

Members of staff from Stratfield House came to defend their service, saying they ‘take pride’ in their work, which is loved by community.

One member of staff, who has worked there for 12 years, said: “Closing could create a crisis for many.

“People out there really need support, but who knows where they are and how their families are coping? Our model must be working, no one wants us to go.

“People are being offered care homes as the alternative - that’s it.”

Dr Sally di Mambro, of Wellington Medical Centre, expressed concerns about the closure and wants the impact on carers to also be considered.

She said: “I am very concerned to hear about the closure. There was no consultation with the medical centre, and it’s going to fall back on us.

“The carers are also our patients. They could become unemployable having to be at home with their loved ones or to put them in a nursing home, which seems to be illogical to me. Stratfield House provides an excellent service, and there’s been no information about a replacement.”

The social care director explained his own background is in nursing, but admitted he hadn’t visited Stratfield House as he doesn’t ‘get involved in individual services’.

He added: “We aren’t relying on day services anymore.

“There has been a change in the way people expect support, fewer people are choosing that type of support. It’s consistent nationally fewer people are using day service models. But we’ve continued to pay for places even though they haven’t been taken up or needed. I do not accept we haven’t been open or transparent. We can’t get to a point to agree a way forward.”

Town councillors said they needed to hear about the alternative services which would be available for dementia patients.

Cllr Marcus Barr said: “This is going to cost SCC even more money in the end, it’s really short-sighted.”

Mayor Cllr Gary James said the closure was a ‘grave error in judgement’ given the town’s ageing population.

Cllr John Hunt said the council owed Mr Chandler an apology given Stratfield House was not on the agenda.