WOODCRAFTERS who use a local day centre attended a committee meeting at Dudley Council to air their grievances at the potential closure of the building.

More than 20 people who use Woodside Day Centre were invited to attend the health and adult social care committee meeting, on October 20, to discuss mental health in Dudley’s community.

Local people who access the services at the centre – including its much-loved woodcrafting facilities – argue the building has purposefully been left in such a derelict state that the council will have no choice but to close it.

Photographs seen by the Local Democracy Reporting service note a damaged roof, chimney stack, and water damage.

Robyn Smith, from Brierley Hill, and a user of the centre, said: “We want to be in a safe, quiet place, not in a cafe where the council are expecting to put us, where it is noisy, and all we can do is have a chat and coffee, which is not exactly the same as doing our woodcrafting.

“The cafe, Queen’s Cross, that they want to move us to, has nothing to do with mental health services. It has not got the facilities to support us.”

Ms Smith, who also works as a glass artist, said she hoped the facility could be brought under the woodcrafters management as a community asset trust.

She added: “It’s the only way, realistically, the building can be saved.”

Speaking after the meeting, Labour councillor for Lye and Stourbridge, Pete Lowe, said: “It is a disgrace that we find ourselves in a situation where residents have not been able to access services since the coronavirus outbreak.

“The council should be a safety net for these residents – but they are failing them here.”

Cllr Lowe, who previously worked as a charge nurse for Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, said the community-based care potentially being offered by the Conservative-led council would only lead to “more isolation” for residents.

He said: “When I visited Woodside myself, it was emotional listening to the residents' stories. We can’t have community-based isolation because of this new outreach model proposed by the council.

“This is not about the bricks and mortar of Woodside itself, but access to the provisions the building holds.

“This is the only building in the whole of Dudley, for example, that provides woodcrafting services. We need appropriate investment and services so that people are looked after.”

According to the previous cabinet meeting, on September 23, Woodside Day Centre requires more than £1m capital investment to make it safe due to deficiencies in the roof and chimney stack.

The cabinet report noted the heating system at the centre was “not fit for purpose” and the capital required would not create a modern facility, but one that “merely met” health and safety requirements.

Several locations have been considered to deliver Woodside’s services, including Queen’s Cross centre – just one mile away – Brett Young Day Centre in Halesowen, and the addition of three community rooms based in Stourbridge, Halesowen and Coseley.

The consultation is part of a wider effort by Dudley Council to create a borough-wide community hub – called ‘Infusion’ – to be part of wider preventive services within adult social care in Dudley.

Councillor Nicolas Barlow, who represents Wollaston and Stourbridge Town and is Dudley's cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “I have acknowledged that there is a mental health crisis not just in Dudley but across the whole country.

"That is why I wrote a joint letter with Cllr Lowe to the Secretaries of State Sajid Javid MP and Michael Gove MP for fair funding – particularly with adult social care – in our region. This is an approach I had taken with Cllr Lowe's predecessors."

Cllr Barlow said utilising funds already available, rather than requesting more money from central government, to prioritise social care is key.

He said: “It’s not just about funding, it’s about utilising the funds we already have, and how to make it the most effective. If we managed to get more funding from central government, that would be great. But at the moment we have to concentrate on our budget and what we can feasibly afford.”

While Cllr Barlow agreed, and said the building was in “an appalling state”, he argued it was no longer fit for purpose.

He said: “I was horrified to learn that the building is in such disrepair, especially after Councillor Rodgers (Conservative - Wordsley), visited the premises.

“Woodside Day Centre is an old building that we think is no longer suitable to provide community services and I’m pleased we’re able to consider alternative locations as part of this work – such as Queen’s Cross.

“We want to make sure all people can travel to the location, we don’t want people travelling too far to access the services.

“I must stress that no decision about the future of Woodside Day Centre or how services will be delivered moving forward will be taken before this consultation is complete.

“I understand that this is quite an emotive subject. The last thing I want to do is upset people.

“We want to make sure all voices across Dudley are heard with regards to the consultation, not just for Woodside in particular, but all adult social care services in our borough.”

Woodside Day Centre, in Holly Hall, services adults from the age of 18 years onwards with mental health problems, and provides support and activities to help rebuild the lives of vulnerable people.

It was set to shut in 2011 after Dudley Council said the building was in a ‘poor condition’ and had structural problems – but council chiefs retracted their statement in 2012 and said they would keep the facility open and carry out improvement works at the site.


The consultation closes at 5pm on November 21. More details here: https://www.dudley.gov.uk/news/views-sought-on-the-future-of-mental-health-services/