Article published: Wednesday, September 4th 2013
A “devastating” decision to close two Manchester City Council day care centres for adults with learning disabilities has been “called in” for scrutiny following outrage from carers.
Plans to shut Northfields in Moston and Eric Hobin in Charlestown as part of a £1.7m cuts package have been condemned by carers, who say closures will have a “catastrophic effect on people’s ability to live fulfilling, independent lives.”
Town Hall chiefs approved the decision in July despite a 1,000 strong petition opposing the plans and strong objections from Health Scrutiny Committee councillors, who warned that the proposals could violate the council’s own social care policy.
It is understood that opposition Lib Dem councillors have now “called in” the decision, which will be reconsidered by tomorrow’s Health Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, 5 September at 2pm in Committee Room 11, Manchester Town Hall.
The committee may approve the plans, pass them back to the council’s leadership with recommendations or put the decision before a meeting of the full council if the service review is judged to violate the Labour-dominated council’s core policies.
A fourth centre, Oakwood in Northernden, was earmarked for closure but will now remain open for people considered to have the most critical needs. It too will close by 2017 however, with clients passed to a PFI—built centre in Brunswick operated by a non-council provider.
The centres cater to some of Manchester’s most vulnerable residents including adults with learning disabilities, the elderly and people with physical disabilities.
The council says the number of centre users has halved since 2010 due to people using personalised budgets to access service elsewhere, and claims that no residents will lose day care provision as affected users will be consolidated into the city’s three remaining centres.
But furious carers allege that recently introduced care reassessments are slashing the number of days users are entitled to use the service, and warn that many may either have to leave work to care for disabled family members during the day or place relatives into residential care.
Robert Churchill, whose daughter uses Northfields, told Mule that “If Northfields closes the impact is going to be devastating for people.” Churchill also disagreed that there were sufficient services for people with low and moderate learning disabilities. “There’s nothing in place”, he argued.
Officials insist that “choice for customers will be increased as access and support is made available to more universally accessible services”, with greater use of individual care budgets and people with mild to moderate learning disabilities directed to universal provision through libraries and leisure centres.
Some carers denied that users would be left with any real choice, however. “They’re saying you have a choice but you haven’t got a choice” said Paul, whose relative uses one of the centres. “Because the council is taking your choice away from you.”
Paul told Mule that the council may not have kept track of what alternative support, if any, that users who had left the centres since 2010 were accessing. “They’ve not got an impact statement on people not in the centres”, he said. “They cannot tell you what happened to these people. Where are they?”
Executive member for Adults’ Health and Wellbeing Councillor Paul Andrews said, “Our plans have been creative out of financial necessity – but they mean that there won’t be a single resident losing day centre provision. We will do our utmost to keep friends together and offer provision on geographic and personal needs.
“We have statutory duties to fulfill and we have a duty of care to make sure our residents and our staff are safe – and we believe that using the bigger, more modern buildings is a sustainable plan which will allow us to develop the activities and resources we have on offer.”
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