Protesting to save their Wellbeing clubs

Members of the Wellbeing groups for older Asian people protesting outside the Town Hall
Members of the Wellbeing groups for older Asian people protesting outside the Town Hall

Members of nine Wellbeing groups for older Asian people gathered on the Town Hall steps on Monday to protest against government cuts.

The Black Minority and Ethnic Wellbeing Clubs were protesting against Luton Borough Council stopping the grant for their clubs.

Councillor Naseem Ayub with the protestors

Councillor Naseem Ayub with the protestors

Hema O’Sullivan, secretary of Dilkhush Wellbeing Club, said: “We are certain that all the clubs will become unsustainable without the funding and will have to close our services.

“We had just under £5000 a year from the council, all 14 clubs have to follow the same criteria and I understand we all received the same grant.

“The average age of our users is 70, many are frail pensioners who suffer from numerous medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.

“Many of our users have found a new lease of life at the clubs and have made friends, there are many benefits for them and they look forward to coming every week.

Members from the wellbeing groups protested outside the Town Hall

Members from the wellbeing groups protested outside the Town Hall

“Some of the members cannot cook by themselves, when they come here they get a cooked meal, that is important as it may be the only meal they have all week.

“This is such an important resource for the older people, it gives them a chance to get out the house, it gives their families a break and they get to meet like-minded people and they can sit and chat in a safe environment.

“There are nine of the clubs here today, it is one for all and all for one, it is about working together.

“The council has no money they can give us but they said there are other sources we can apply to.”

The clubs provide regular exercise and yoga sessions and days out for their users.

The council reviewed all wellbeing groups in 2013 and at that time the affected groups were informed they would no longer be able to fund them.

Luton Mayor Dave Taylor, leader of the council Hazel Simmons and councillor Naseem Ayub met with the protesters.

Councillor Simmons said: “We had to cut the council’s budget and can only fund statutory services, this is a discretionary service.

“We have asked the clubs to go into a consortium, I believe an organisation called CYCD (Centre for Youth and Community Development) will be like an umbrella organisation, they will put bids in and the money will come to them and they will distribute it to the clubs.

“We are working with them on a bid from Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation and they are supportive, they understand the work the clubs do, I am sure they are going to get funding.

“I think it is great that they have come out here and are saying you are not closing our clubs.

“These organisations are all run by volunteers and we do appreciate the work they do.

“We are helping them find money from other sources because nobody wants to see the clubs close.”

One of the members of the clubs spoke about how her husband, who is blind, has grown in confidence since attending the clubs and looks forward to going every week.

The protesters spoke about the benefits of the clubs, which included social inclusion, regular exercise, making new friends, getting support and advice and having something to look forward to every week.

Mrs Bhundia, 62, attends Dilkhush Wellbeing Club, she has suffered a number of strokes and since going to the club she has turned her life around. She said: “I was very depressed, I could not cook and I would rarely even leave the house, this club has given me light, I have made a lot of friends.

“The carers and volunteers have really helped me, just getting out the house, every week I look forward to coming here. If the club closes I will have nothing to look forward to and I will go back to being depressed and won’t even get out of bed.”