Elderly residents could lose community facilities under housing shake-up
- Credit: Simon Parkin
A community building used by retirement home residents in Diss for events including Christmas and birthday parties could be closed under proposed changes.
Older people living in one-bedroom bungalows in Skelton Road and Skelton Close, many of whom live on their own, say losing communal facilities at Oak Tree Place will lead to a loss of "community spirit".
Saffron Housing Trust has written to residents, aged between 64 and 94, to say it plans to close the communal meeting room, on-site laundry and the current warden call system.
The trust is undertaking a 30-day consultation on its new Older Person Strategy, which also includes changes at other Saffron Housing older people services in Diss, Thomas Manning Road and Clare House.
Valerie Boughen, 64, who the youngest resident of the Skelton Road community, said: "We are going to lose the whole lot. It is a crying shame.
"The community room is important to us. We meet for tea and a chat and there is a computer that we can use. It is somewhere where you can come and have a natter."
Another resident, Pauline, aged 89, added: "We are not happy about what they want to do. Many of us come here to do our washing. There is a real community spirit. We have fish and chip meals, the Christmas party and birthday parties. Some of us come together to do our jigsaw puzzles."
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In its letter Saffron Housing states the communal room is "very rarely used" and that residents will instead be invited to attend activities at Denny Centre, a new day centre being opened at Thomas Manning Road.
On proposed changes to warden call systems, it states: "All the call systems are in need of replacement due to their age. The call systems will be removed and not be replaced. However, there are other call services and lifelines that we can help you get if you require them.
"We will gradually reduce the service over the coming months and it will stop by the end of March 2020."
Tony Long, assistant director for Housing Operations at Saffron, said: "We are committed to ensuring our homes meet the needs of our customers now and in the future, and those of the wider communities. This means we are currently reviewing our older persons housing service and consulting with customers on our proposals specific to each scheme, which includes our schemes in Diss.
"No decisions have been made. However, if we decide to go ahead with any planned changes; no-one would be left unsupported as needs assessments will be undertaken, which includes the option of installing life lines. The potential changes to Oak Tree Place include, our homes being accessible to general needs customers to help the much-needed affordable homes provision in the area.
"It is vital to us that people are not isolated and detached from the communities in which they live and have the help and support to remain independent for as long as possible.
"Our aim is to use our most popular and appropriate schemes to provide quality and sustainable services, as well as creating wellbeing hubs for vibrant communities. This would be the case at Thomas Manning Road for customers from all of our schemes to use, as well as the wider community."