Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Protesters outside the Isabel Blackman Centre (all photos: Paul Way-Rider).

No more ear-candling in the Old Town

That’s if East Sussex County Council gets its way!  And no more chiropody and podiatry, no more computer rescue, carers’ therapies, massage and yoga, calligraphy, local history group, philosophy classes, bridge and scrabble, art and fruit & veg market. This is just a snapshot of the activities aimed towards older people available  in the Old Town’s Isabel Blackman Centre, which East Sussex County Council (ESCC) wants to close as part of its cuts programme, writes HOT’s Chris Cormack.

Protesters banners.

Scores of people congregated outside the Isabel Blackman Centre in Winding Street, Hastings Old Town, this Wednesday to protest the move to take away the centre’s funding. The county council voted last week for closure. The Isabel Blackman Centre is a service for older people managed by Age UK East Sussex in partnership with ESCC and Newhaven Community Development Association.

The Isabel Blackman Centre combines a community hub, cafe and day-care services for older people in Hastings and the surrounding area to enjoy. The community hub is open six days a week and offers a wide activities programme for people of 50 years+ including:

  • computer skills
  • language courses
  • yoga and exercise classes
  • dinner clubs
  • history group
  • photography workshops
  • art and drawing
  • reflexology and massage
    and much more…

A noticeboard full of activities.

Rooms and space at the community hub are also available for hire by all members of the local community. The Isabel Blackman Centre cafe is run by NCDA and offers a delicious range of lunches and light snacks. It is open to the public each day. The centre also offers a day-care service in a safe and friendly environment for people who need help to live independently. Referrals come from Adult Social Care and the centre’s trained and experienced staff provide a high level of personalised care to meet individual needs, including:

  • a varied programme of activities
  • trips out, entertainment, speakers, arts and crafts, cooking and a shop service
  • freshly cooked meals from the on-site community cafe, snacks and hot drinks
  • assisted bathing facilities
  • help with accessing other support from Age UK East Sussex etc, and
  • assistance with transport.

The centre is very conveniently located next to a large block of sheltered accommodation for aged people, but caters for needs way beyond the Old Town boundaries. Many people think of the Old Town as a place for the better-off, but do not appreciate that it consists very much of small fishermen’s cottages, often gerry-built from jetsam and flotsam on the beach.  If it is millionaire’s mansions you are looking for, look rather to Burton’s St Leonards. There is a high proportion of elderly and disabled in the Old Town, including those with extremely tight budgets and in need of benefits to cope.

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Posted 15:11 Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013 In: Campaigns


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  1. Angela Westwick

    The Isabel Blackman Centre is such a great initiative. I am relatively new to Hastings and have already used some of the services and activities on offer and was hoping to use more once I got myself more established and organised. The computer clinic/doctor was a lifesaver for me when my computer went on the blink and I was really hoping to brush up my computer skills at the Centre. For those of us trying to live on a much reduced income it’s a godsend.

    Comment by Angela Westwick — Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 @ 20:03

  2. Jane Watson

    The Centre provides an invaluable service to many residents of the Old Town. It would be a great pity if this desists.

    Comment by Jane Watson — Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 @ 11:29

  3. wendy morgan

    The way a society cares for it’s elderly and infirm is a measure if its civilization! This proposed closure is to provide funding for more roads!
    My elderly mother -now 101 used the Isabel Blackman centre and now i am a Volunteer there, organizing the Table tennis and Bridge on Wednesdays.
    Apart from the great Day centre upstairs,on the ground floor all the diverse activities provide an opportunity for elderly people to socialize, network, and enjoy life after retirement.
    This place is such a wonderful valuable asset to the Old Town and local area. The East Sussex County council needs to look at its priorities and Save the Isabel Blackman centre!

    Comment by wendy morgan — Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 @ 10:07

  4. Linda Twort

    Hi Chris and HOT.
    This is not the first time that IBC has been targeted. My late mother went to the IBC day centre for years and it was not only a safe and happy place for her to be but gave me, her carer, a welcome break. There are old ladies and gentlemen who enjoy the day centre at IBC who live on their own. What will happen to them if their one chance at contact with the outside world is taken away?
    The staff at the day centre (held upstairs) are second to none and genuinely caring people who do not deserve to lose their jobs either. No matter which way the Council looks at this – closure of IBC is morally wrong.

    Linda Twort

    Comment by Linda Twort — Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013 @ 20:48

  5. Angie Phillip

    Hi there Chris and HOT – so glad you covered this. This morning at St Clement’s Church coffee morning I was talking to some of the women, who will suffer from the closure. They told me about people they knew, in wheelchairs etc, who would now no longer have anywhere to go.
    Might it be possible to include a subheading along the lines of ‘Isabel Blackman Centre threatened with closure’ so that it’s clear what the article’s about and interested readers can read on? Would it be possible to do a follow-up, possibly interviewing some of those affected and most importantly telling people how to help fight the closure? Thanks again.

    Comment by Angie Phillip — Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013 @ 18:55

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