December 2, 2003
Hendon & Finchley Times
Harry Gilbey was working as a chauffeur when he was told he would never drive again. Nine years ago, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and lost many of his physical faculties, but he remains as mentally sharp as ever.
So, when Mr Gilbey, 51, of Green Lane, Edgware, joined the Flightways day centre in Lakeview, Grahame Park, three years ago, it was a lifeline both to him and his wife Gillian, 46.
Flightways gives those who are disabled, or with sensory impairments, the chance to participate in activities such as arts and crafts, theatre, computer studies and sign-language courses.
Today, with a 3million deficit in Barnet Council's social services budget, cuts loom and Flightways could face closure or a raft of redundancies, which could severely jeopardise the centre's work.
"I would be a couch potato if it wasn't for Flightways. Coming here is a lifeline. If it was not here there would be no alternative," said Mr Gilbey.
Mrs Gilbey has to juggle part-time office work with looking after her two daughters, Rachel, 19, and Debbie, 15, and her husband. Without Flightways, she would have to leave her job to provide full-time care for her husband from tying his shoelaces to preparing his meals.
"I would lose my freedom. They need their specific carers and they need a centre of their own. If I had to stay at home, it would make my life hard.
"Does Barnet Council not care at all about the facilities for the disabled, and do they realise the upset the closure will cause, both for the members who attend and the staff who do a wonderful job in looking after them and who will become unemployed?" she said.
Mr Gilbey added: "She knows where I am and it gets me off her back.
If the centres closes we will fight the council."
December 3, 2003
Hendon & Finchley Times
My husband, who attends Flightways Day Centre in Grahame Park, has been informed that Barnet Council is considering closing the centre in March 2004, due to proposed cuts in expenditure on disability services.
Harry suffers badly from multiple sclerosis and for the past three years has been attending Flightways five days a week, where he has made many friends amongst both the staff and the other disabled people.
He has learnt sign language, enabling him to communicate with the hard of hearing, and joined many discussion groups as well as being a member of the Flightways Action Committee.
If Flightways is closed, what are people like Harry supposed to do just sit at home and become a couch potato? More importantly then, what about myself and other members' partners, are we supposed to give up our freedom during the day to look after them?
Barnet Council must reconsider their financial budget for next year
in order to keep Flightways open permanently. Obviously I am in full agreement
that schools should not suffer but then neither should the disabled.
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