Senior citizens forced to shift amid Centre safety concerns

August 9, 2011

by Bronagh Murphy

Concerns surrounding the health and safety of senior citizens who attend the Senior Citizens Club in Crossmaglen Community Centre have led the Southern Health and Social Care Trust to seek an alternative venue for the twice-weekly meeting the Examiner has learned.

It’s believed a risk assessment and inspection by fire officers found the premises offers inadequate safety provision for people with mobility difficulties and, in the event of an emergency, may impact on the safety of elderly users.

Although acknowledging that the needs of its patrons must be a priority for the Southern Trust, local Councillors have expressed their disappointment at the move.

Sinn Fein’s Terry Hearty says the Trust’s decision is a direct result of the refusal of Newry and Mourne District Council to upgrade the ageing facility.

“People have been using the Social Centre at the Community Centre for 27 years and, for many people, attending the Social Centre gave them the opportunity to do other business around the town like going to Mass or the Post Office,” Councillor Hearty said.

“The fact is that the Community Centre needs to be upgraded and the opportunity for Newry and Mourne Council, which owns the property, to do this arose last year.  At that time Sinn Féin put forward a proposal that this work be included in the annual rates which would have meant an addition of just £8.00 per household per year. This was voted down by the Unionist members of the Council and by all but one SDLP member.  Our next proposal was to apply for SOAR Funding to complete the project at no cost to the ratepayer but this too was voted down,” he explained.

“Now we clearly see the upshot of the decision not to fund the redevelopment of Crossmaglen Community Centre and that is that this service has been relocated and I fear that this may have a detrimental affect on user numbers,” he added.

SDLP Councillor Geraldine Donnelly says while she does not wish to the see users of the facility put at risk, she is “bitterly disappointed” at the withdrawal of the Senior Citizens club.

Commenting on the matter, Councillor Donnelly said: “The facility is much more than a day centre, there is a whole social aspect to it,” she said.

“People who live in the countryside are picked up by a very reliable Community Bus service, they can go to Mass, Health Centre, Bank, Post Office and do a bit of shopping and the bus then takes them back home again.”

Both Councillor Donnelly and Councillor Hearty have pledged to seek meetings with all relevant agencies to find a suitable outcome to the situation.

Meanwhile, in response, a spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said negotiations surrounding the relocation of the Senior Citizens Club are continuing and reiterated the Trust’s commitment to retaining it in Crossmaglen.

It is anticipated the club will reconvene in an alternative venue later this month.

“All Trust services are continually reviewed to ensure that they continue to meet the ever changing needs of those they have been set up for. In light of this, a recent review has indicated that at present the needs of those attending the Social Centre in Crossmaglen Community Centre would be best met in a different venue,” the spokesperson said.

“The Trust has been exploring different options in Crossmaglen and negotiations are on-going.  It is anticipated that the Social Centre will reconvene in Crossmaglen week commencing the 22nd of August 2011. All service users have been kept informed of the situation.

“The Trust apologises for any inconvenience these temporary arrangements may cause.  The Trust looks forward to working with the Newry & Mourne District Council and the Crossmaglen Community Centre staff in the future,” the spokesperson added.