Campaigners have begun fighting plans to close three-quarters of the council-run day care centres in Devon.
Devon County Council wants to axe 75% of its facilities as part of plans to cut £28 million from next year’s budget, reducing the number from 35 to nine.
The Conservative authority says attendances have dropped significantly since 2005 and it wants to close some, merge others and use more private provision.
Relatives of elderly people who attend the centres say they play a pivotal role in their lives and argue that paying the private sector does not make financial sense.
Sue Buckley, of Dawlish, says her 89-year-old mother, who has attended Beechcroft Day Centre, in Teignmouth, for four years, depends on the support.
“It is a superb place and there is nothing out there which can match it – the staff are so loving, caring and professional,” she added.
“We are trying to keep her in her own home – she has got Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia – I can’t be with her all day but she needs someone otherwise she just sleeps.
“The council want to buy services from the private sector but I fail to see how that will be cost effective – they talk about retirement homes but sitting in front of a TV all day is no stimulation at all.
“We are going to put up a fight and make some noise.”
The council insists that everyone eligible will continue to receive council support and says no decision has yet been made the proposals, which are under consultation until March 19 but have already been factored into budget plans set to be approved by the full council tomorrow. thurs)
Officials say a 66% fall in attendance and the reduction in government funding had led it to review how future services were delivered,
Councillor Stuart Barker, cabinet member for adult social care, said nothing was “set in stone”, but, with rising costs and lower attendance, the council had to be “realistic”.
“We should be prepared to keep centres in places where there is demand and insufficient alternative,” he added.
“But where there are good private or voluntary sector-run alternatives, we should consider using them more.”
The Oasis Centre in Barnstaple, the only dedicated centre for physical disabilities, is marked for closure.
Martin Moss, who attends, said if it closed it would leave “a big hole” in his life.
“You can talk to people with other disabilities without so-called normal people staring at you and we can be ourselves,” the 53-year-old said.
“It’s part of your extended family... it would be absolutely devastating if it closed.”