Could the council care less?

day-careStaffordshire County Council have made the decision to close Kidsgrove Day Centre in Gloucester Road which will affect hundereds of vulnerable adults, despite a public outcry to keep the service.

A consultation revealed that 80 percent of 750 respondents rejected the proposals and don’t want the service, which is used by vulnerable adults with complex learning difficulties, to close. Over 4000 people have signed an online petition to keep the services, a hundred campaigners made a protest march from Kidsgrove to Newcastle in a bid to stop the proposals, MP Joan Walley has raised the issue in the House of Commons and some councillors have raised concerns that alternative provision is not yet available.

But on 15th January Staffordshire County Council cabinet approved the closure of Kidsgrove and Codsall Day Centres as part of their modernisation plans to move away from building based care, stating,“The consultation results show that people don’t want change… A consultation isn’t a referrendum. If 70 percent of people want no change, we will have to work doubly hard to implement the changes in the right way”. Which begs the question: why have a consultation at all?

Currently around 440 people use day services across the county which costs £8.6 million to run, though the council say that the changes proposed to day services are not driven by the need to save money but their primary aim is to ensure everyone is offered personalised support and that by releasing resources tied up in large expensive to run buildings that are now nearly empty, they can offer more choice and more tailored support to more people.

The council have said the move away from building based care was ‘best practice’ and they want to encourage service users with less complex needs to access ‘opportunites’ in the community, though specifically which opportunities exist is questioned as there are no detailed proposals of what is going to replace the service. Mary Maxfield, Chair of the Day Service Action Group said, “There is no evidence to say that there are services in the community and the private sector that can offer a comparable or better service than there is at the moment, I think that service users will suffer greatly”, and Mrs Walley said, “It is an absolute sham. There is no detailed proposal of what is going to replace what we have at the moment”. A cabinet member has said that they expect the independent sector to develop in the future to meet demand.

The council claim that the number of users using the building based service is falling as people are already choosing to use services offered by alternative providers but many users say that this is because they have been discouraged from using the service as the council have been aiming to reduce numbers. Mrs Walley said “we believe that the centre has been run down so the council can say it is not viable,” parents of one of the day service users said “we were discouraged from using the centre because I think they were trying to reduce numbers”.

The council will now reassess users of day services and those with the most complex needs – estimated to be around a third – will continue to receive building based day care, another third will receive personal budgets to pay for services from the independent sector and the last third will no longer be eligible for council funding.

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