Manchester day care centre closures confirmed

Article published: Thursday, September 5th 2013

Two day centres for adults with learning disabilities and other care needs are to close after councillors on a Manchester City Council scrutiny committee voted against kicking a “call-in” of the decision back to Town Hall chiefs for reconsideration.

Manchester-Town-Hall ed okeefeHealth Scrutiny Committee chair Councillor Eddie Newman said referring the decision to the Executive meeting on Wednesday 11 September would give “false hope” to carers by only granting six days reprieve for the centres.

Earlier, the Executive member for adult services, Councillor Paul Andrews, said the meeting had done nothing to change his mind about the need for the centres to close in a bid to save £1.7m and that delay would incur further running costs and cause more cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Outraged carers had fiercely opposed cuts to the service and the initial decision in July had itself been criticised by the Health Scrutiny Committee, which questioned reports justifying the closures.

Liberal Democrat councillors had called in the decision for renewed scrutiny, with opposition leader Councillor Simon Wheale arguing that “the democratic process has not yet ended” and that the council should consider the role of the voluntary and community sector in mitigating closures.

Robert Churchill, whose daughter uses the closure-threatened Northfield centre, said he felt let down by the committee’s decision. “I believe they’re frightened of the Executive,” he said. “Last time they stood up for us, but now it’s done and dusted.”

Debbie Tilbrook, who addressed the meeting on behalf of the carers, said cuts to the service including closures and recent care reassessments that are alleged to be drastically reducing the number of days per week people are eligible for the centres would have a “catastrophic” impact.

Tilbrook warned councillors that a report justifying the cuts was riddled with “inconsistencies”, and said decisions on such a crucial service should be “based on facts and not fiction”. She claimed that several discrepancies had come to light as a result of research by carers, including:

  • The figure of 365 people using the centres was later contradicted in the report by occupancy levels indicating a figure of 421 users. When calculated against available care sessions this would indicate that Manchester had spare capacity for just 15 extra users.
  • The closure of two centres earlier in the year and transfer to other providers meant that the city was operating on a five-centre model rather than a seven-centre model.
  • The consultation was reported as having officially begun in February. Parents and relatives of service users at meetings on 5 April and 9 May in Moston’s Northfield centre asked council officers whether they were in a consultation and were told it was “just a proposal”.
  • Investigating the listings in a booklet that claimed 134 signposted places with activities for people with low or moderate needs were available in Manchester revealed that only 13 were “viable daytime activities between 9am and 4pm”.

In response, council officers said people assessed as having critical or substantial needs would still have access to the centres. People considered to have low or moderate needs would be signposted to “universal settings” such as libraries and leisure centres because the council had no statutory duty to directly provide them with activities.

After the meeting, carers said the council’s eligibility assessments urgently needed reform. “The assessments are not working”, argued Tilbrook, who warned that cuts would have serious consequences. “I’ve spoke to parents in the last two weeks and people are heartbroken.”

Sue Ashton, whose daughter is a user of Heathfields, said: “We know we’ve got these cuts from this government and I hate this government”, but insisted that “this is an essential service. [The council are] not spending money correctly.”

She added, “I don’t think they’ve heard the end of this”.

Richard Goulding

Louise Sheridan

More: Council, Cuts, Manchester, News


  1. Well-reported, sir!!

    FWIW, I thought Debbie Tilbrook spoke excellently.

    The problem is, next year it’s going to be even worse…

    Comment by Marc Hudson on September 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm
  2. Every cash strapped government is making cuts in this economic crisis and in the UK each council has to take on its fair share. However Manchester City Council are taking the stance of hitting the vulnerable who cannot speak for themselves. They are using the disabled as a political pawn to discredit the current government (and believe me they don’t need any extra help as they are doing a fine job on their own).The Adult and Social Care directorate have already withstood around 70% of the savings Manchester has to make. So why are they pontificating over a measly £1.7 mill. Tyrannical and childish behaviour in the light of their recently published £40 mill under spend. Peoples party my left foot, more like a self serving politburo. Absolutely disgusted, they have lost my vote.

    Comment by julie on September 5, 2013 at 11:55 pm
  3. Both this and library cuts were apparently based on very dodgy statistics. The council has no statutory duty to spend 400,000 on a occupying Alicia Keyes for one evening ..yet it still managed to spend this money.

    Comment by Carer on September 6, 2013 at 9:18 am
  4. […] libraries? Don’t be silly.  Daycare centres? Please don’t be silly.  Alleviate council tax burdens on the most vulnerable? Look, for the […]

    Pingback by £14.5m for a “Clean and Green” #Manchester. Libraries and day care centres and stuff? Not so much | manchester climate monthly on September 9, 2013 at 10:39 am
  5. Who is Debbie Tilbrook? What is her interest in these changes? I would be interested to know that and it seems important information that is missing.

    Is it not worth mentioning that the Lib Dem party were not represented at all at the initial scrutiny meeting that considered this proposal? Where Labour councillors, rightly or wrongly, *did* refer the matter back to executive.

    That Lib Dems were also not represented at the Economy Scrutiny Committee last Wednesday morning which looked at the effect of Welfare Reform. The day before this meeting.

    And that they, specifically Simon Wheale as Finance spokesperson and latterly leader, has persistently claimed that Manchester’s settlement from the government is one of the highest in the country, generous even.

    Yet the same party claim that every change required by the reduced budget that their government has provided is unnecessary.

    You have not reported any of the comments of committee members, apart from Chair Eddie Newman’s remark that to do other than we did would be giving false hope. This seems to undermine the balance and completeness of the story if you don’t mind me saying so.

    Mark Hudson is right. Things are going to get even harder next year and the year after. At least in this case every user still has the opportunity of receiving the day care service, and their carers of this support, yet savings will be made.

    If Manchester had received “fair cuts” over the years 2011-13 and 2013-15 they would have been around half the figure. In 2014-15 alone we will be £55 million worse off than a fair cut. About £110 million worse off overall.

    More than £1 million a week worse off than an equal national cut.

    Comment by Chris Paul on September 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm
  6. Chris
    Just to let you know that Debbie is someone that the disabled people love to bits as she helps them with their mobility and physical wellbeing through the medium of dance.
    Debbie was doing this as some members of the QAG were unable to attend and only 1 person was allowed to orate at the meeting.
    I don’t know if you was aware that several Labour councillors were approached by the Quality Action Groups of the day centres and got absolutely nowhere and to this date I am still waiting for my local councillor to get back to me as to what is available under the “Universal settings.” Councillor Wheale at least had the compassion and humanity to listen to us and try and help.(Labour were supposed to be the caring party in my days, my how that has changed!)
    This was never a political move at all never was or will be!
    What information was missing as all the information was taken from the councils own proposals and glaring inadequacies were found.
    Are you aware of the heartache caused by this councils NOT government reassessments of the disabled citizens going on right at this moment, I sincerely doubt you do ?

    Comment by Citylions on September 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm
  7. Hello Chris. The government’s funding cuts are well known and not in dispute here; whether Manchester City Council is being straight with residents is, however.

    The report’s inconsistencies highlighted by the carers through their own research (a report which was itself questioned by your own committee) have not been responded to by the council. This raises some pretty concerning questions about the basis of the decisions the council is making and it seems there are issues about whether these changes will be cost effective in the event of unintended consequences such as carers leaving work or adults with learning difficulties having to enter residential care in the future.

    I’d also argue this incident suggests that checks and balances in local government between the executive and backbench councillors is quite weak. I would hope that elected members have not now concluded that the matter is closed.

    Comment by richard on September 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The comments are closed.