Since November 2015, there has been a highly successful campaign to keep open three day centres at Whiterock, Everton and Ravenhill that provide vital support for people with mental health and learning difficulties.
These centres have been threatened with closure by the Belfast Trust as a means to cut costs and outsource the services currently provided by NHS staff to the community and voluntary sector.
The Belfast Health Trust plans have been thwarted by a very focal and energetic group of service users, carers and supporters.
The Belfast Health Trust hoped that they could have rubberstamped the decision at their board meeting on 14th January 2016.
The Trust Board was forced to defer its decision bythe tireless work of service users, carers, trade unions and supporters; who gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, handed out thousands of leaflets and organised numerous public protests.
There is a raising confidence by the service users and carers in the Save Our Day Centres Campaign, as recent meetings with senior management have indicated it is likely the decision if at all will not be made until after the Assembly Elections.
The Trust Board is rattled by the public campaign that exposes how they are willing to put at risk the mental health and physical wellbeing of over 200 service users, carers and families.
Service users are gaining confidence they are winning this campaign but understand it is critical it essential now turn up the heat on the BHSCT Board and Assembly Executive.
The Trust Board has made it very clear the decision lies with the Health Minister and the Assembly. The Save Our Day Centres Campaign understands it is likely that the health Minister may change after the elections, so it is essential this becomes an election issue.
The Save Our Day Centres Campaign now demands all Assembly parties must now state openly if they will halt this consultation if it comes to the Assembly after the election.
If they do not; it is the intention of the campaign to let their voters know that they are willing to see the closure of these vital day centre services.
The Save Our Day Centre Campaign is committed to continue to campaign through public stalls, leafleting and protests and build a mass campaign in the run up to the elections and beyond.
Pat Lawlor, Nipsa