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Last ditch effort to save Freefield

Freefield or Islesburgh?

THE POPULAR Freefield Centre in Lerwick could close before the end of next month if councillors agree to recommendations from social work staff on Wednesday.

An 11th hour bid to keep the North Road building open to serve lunch to a group of around 22 old folk has been met with a cool response from officials, who say they can no longer justify supporting such a non statutory service.

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Users of the building have presented a list of alternatives to closing Freefield and moving them to a dedicated space at Islesburgh Community Centre where they would be offered a hot meal with sweet or a starter for £5 a day.

They have found a builder who says the building is in little need of repair and has offered to maintain it for one year.

Their suggestions include reducing staffing levels to one part time post and a job share, advertising to hire the hall for functions and the basement for storage and have offered to come up with £3,000 a year through fund raising.

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However in her report to the full council on Wednesday afternoon, Shetland Islands Council community care director Sally Shaw says that none of their suggestions will cover the cost of running Freefield, which currently stands at £130,000 a year.

Shaw says that Islesburgh can offer the Freefield users a dedicated space where they can enjoy a hot three course meal and each other’s company six days a week.

She says that the users “could and should support each other” and do not require the current staff who currently act as “waitresses and companions”.

Shaw suggests that Freefield should close by 23 May to avoid its five year statutory electrical check, which she suggests could trigger £14,000 expenditure for the council.

She adds that Islesburgh would offer “members of the luncheon club greater exposure to other activities and interactions, including intergenerational opportunities”.

If Freefield closes there will be implications for staff at the North Road centre and at Kantersted Kitchens where the meals are cooked, which will be discussed by the SIC’s executive committee on Wednesday morning.

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