Shock at closure of popular Welwyn Garden City lunch club
PUBLISHED: 12:27 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:35 17 May 2017
A lunch club that has provided a social hub for the elderly of Welwyn Garden City for at least 30 years is to close its doors for good next month.
Age UK Hertfordshire has told the borough council, its landlord, that it will leave Douglas Tilbe House in Hall Grove on June 23 as it is restructuring its local services thanks to a new County Hall grant.
Although the lunch club is open to everybody past state pension age, the charity’s new service, to be known as Hertswise, will concentrate on dementia sufferers and people with preliminary memory loss.
Chief executive Jan Gough said: “It will be a sad loss to see the lunch club come to an end and we are doing everything we can to help older people find other local services to suit their needs.
“This might be a visit to a different lunch club, joining a specialist support group through Hertswise, or taking part in a new social activity.
“Along with other local partners, we will start delivering Hertswise services in June from a new hub in Welwyn Garden City, providing people with memory loss, and their carers, with advice on claiming benefits, housing options and community care and health services.”
Sean Cox, who has enjoyed free use of the facilities for the popular Christmas Day lunches he started 44 years ago, said: “It is a shock. It is ideal for us, and I just hope the goodwill of the council will allow us to keep using it.”
The lunch club, meeting between 10am and 3pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, has declined in popularity in recent years, but still regularly attracts about 40 people, with activities such as hairdressing, chiropody, and carpet bowls.
The borough council will provide minibus lifts to charity-run day services in Hatfield at Friendship House and the Jim McDonald Centre.
But Mr Cox added: “A lot of them probably won’t want to go all the way to Hatfield.”
Simone Russell, executive director at the council said: “We’re working closely with Age UK to help ensure visitors to the lunch club undergo the smoothest transition possible to other services and our community bus service will be available to take people to other locations, including Friendship House and Jimmy Macs.
“I am pleased Age UK Hertfordshire will remain a valued part of the borough’s community services and their support of some of our most vulnerable residents will continue through Hertswise.”
A council spokeswoman added: “We’re considering a number of options for the future use of this facility.
“Providing accessible facilities and supporting the most vulnerable residents in our communities will remain our top priority and we will continue working with Age UK Hertfordshire, and our other partners, to ensure the right services are in place for those in need.”
The authority says it will try to accommodate Mr Cox’s Christmas lunch in future, but has not decided exactly how.