Dozens of residents have protested against the closure of a 'lifeline' community centre.

Service users and their families rallied outside East Dunbartonshire Council headquarters following the council’s plans to close the popular Milan Day Centre in Kirkintilloch. 

From digital skills classes to reading groups, the daycare centre has been responsible for 'saving' elderly and vulnerable ethnic minorities from loneliness and isolation for around two decades, according to those who want it to remain open. 

Asian Image: Image: Gordon Terris, Newsquest

Manjulika Singh, leader of the protest and chair of the Ethnic Minority Forum, said: "The Milan Daycare Centre is very important for the ethnic elderly's mental and physical wellbeing.

"It gives them a place to make friends and entertain themselves.

"We have daycare centres for our young people, so why can't we have that for the elderly? It is important that they have a safe and warm place to be and that this centre is saved." 

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Sisters Suman Joshi and Rekha Salwan, whose mum and aunt have used the service for years, are fearing for their family’s social lives and mental well-being following the news of the closure.

Rekha Salwan said: "What we are angry about is obviously the fact that the centre is closing but also the way the users have been treated with no dignity and respect.

“The decision to close just gets (blamed on) Covid-19 and lockdown and we are just not accepting it.

“These people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. That’s it."

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Following plans to close the centre, East Dunbartonshire Council proposed the idea of integrating attendees of the Milan Centre into another day centre in the area. 

Something that Scottish Conservative MSP for West Scotland Pam Gosal has said would not be ‘culturally appropriate’.

She added: "It is so important that East Dunbartonshire Council listen to the voices of the ethnic minority and see how important the Milan Centre is. It is a lifeline for all of them. 

“I think they have forgotten all of what ethnic minorities have contributed socially, economically and culturally to Scotland.

“I have raised the issue of this closure to parliament and a motion has been put in. If the council does not have the necessary funds to keep the centre open, I have urged the SNP Government to step in to save it.

“This is about having the right service and showing that one size does not fit all. Closing this centre would be a devastating blow for many elderly people and their families."

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Age Scotland and the Scottish Hindu Foundation turned up to support the demonstration.

Katherine Crawford, CEO of Age Scotland, said: “The service users told us how the centre is a lifeline for them. One user told us that the service had saved their life and another had said that if the centre closed, they would just go home and look at the walls.

“This service is clearly tackling the problems of loneliness and isolation with the elderly."

Richa Sinha, of the Scottish Hindu Foundation, added: “This is one of the few centres we, as Hindus, get from the council.

“We don’t ask for much other than this and for the council to shut it down it will be a really big loss to the community." 

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The council has said that the decision to close comes as funding and resources are becoming "scarcer".

Caroline Sinclair, chief officer of East Dunbartonshire HSCP, said:  "We appreciate that changing the way in which people receive their support can cause anxiety and many people do not want to see any changes made at all.

"However, as demand for services increases, and funding and resources become more scarce, it is necessary for us to make changes and to provide services in an equitable and efficient way for the future.

"We remain keen to work positively with the users of the Milan Centre and their families and carers, to help ensure they continue to receive the support they have been assessed as requiring, in a way that suits them best from the range of future options available."

The centre has launched a petition to gather as much support for the cause as possible.

You can sign it by clicking HERE