A major refurbishment of the Willows Day Care Centre in St Helier will lead to an enhanced range of services for people living with dementia in Jersey.
The Willows opened in December 1976; at the time, it was Jersey’s only day care opportunity of its type, although a network of different day care facilities has subsequently developed.
The Willows is currently in urgent need of refurbishment, and the proposed five-month project will turn the venue into a centre for supporting people with dementia. This is part of the major investment into community services outlined in the Health and Social Services Department’s 2012 White Paper ‘Caring for Each Other, Caring for Ourselves.’
The centre will reopen in the autumn, providing a range of day care opportunities – including provision for younger Islanders who have been diagnosed with young-onset dementia. HSSD will work closely with voluntary organisations, such as Jersey Alzheimer’s Association, in order to develop the service. In addition, service users and carers will be asked to give their views on how the service should be designed to meet the needs of users.
The project aims to create the best possible environment for those who will be using it. Some of the existing services will be transferring to the Willows from the Poplars Day Centre at Overdale, which will subsequently fill a more specialised role as an outpatient facility for patients with memory impairment.
While the refurbishment of the Willows Centre will provide a new dimension in the care available in Jersey, the closure of the existing day centre in May will be the end of an era. The Willows is currently used regularly by around 30 Islanders, who attend on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays and are supported by the centre’s volunteer staff. It is also used by a number of local and national community groups such as The Jersey Society for the Disabled, The National Childbirth Trust, The Eating Disorders Support Group and Jersey Macmillan Cancer Support.
Ann Marie Barrett, Project Manager for Older Adult Day Services Review and the Willows Refurbishment, said one of the initial priorities had been to ensure arrangements were made to provide alternative day care opportunities for existing service users of the Willows building. Efforts have also been made to source alternative venues for the community groups that use the Willows facilities.
“This is an unsettling time for those who use the Willows, some of whom have been attending for many years,” she said. “Happily we have obtained alternative day care opportunities for service users at other centres including the Hollies, Sandybrook, The Good Companions’ Club and Age Concern, and with one exception the community groups have also found new locations.”
The Jersey Society for the Disabled (JSD) is still seeking a venue in order for its weekly session, which currently caters for 25 disabled members and volunteers at the Willows every Thursday between 9am and 4pm.
“The loss of the use of the Willows is a great blow to the Society – we have used the venue virtually every Thursday since its opening in 1976,” said Norman de la Haye, Chairman of the JSD. “We very much hope that an alternative venue will be found for us in order that we can continue our work with disabled people from all over the Island.”
Discussions are continuing between HSSD and the JSD in a bid to source a suitable venue, with a number of potential facilities being considered.
Ian Dyer, Director of Services for Older People, said: “The Willows has been an important part of many people’s weekly routine for many years, but is now in need of major investment. This project will soon be underway and we look forward to having a modernised facility providing a wider range of services for dementia sufferers.”
The closure of the Willows is scheduled for Saturday 3 May, when a party will be held for volunteers and all those who use the service to mark the occasion.