CONTROVERSIAL plans to overhaul day care for people with learning disabilities have been approved by Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet despite being opposed by 70 per cent of consultees.
Two day care centres, in Codsall and Kidsgrove, are set to close and all service users will undergo assessments if the county council’s “modernisation” plans are ratified.
If they are assessed to be better suited to opportunities in the community service users will be given help in finding alternative services, such as training or employment opportunities, by the Community Connect service.
Those with the most complex needs – estimated at around 30 per cent of current service users (around 140) would continue to receive day care in council buildings including Stafford’s Marsh Court facility.
But the majority of people – 70 per cent- who responded to the council’s consultation last year opposed the proposals and called for no changes, the council’s cabinet heard yesterday (Wednesday).
The council’s Healthy Staffordshire Select Committee, which met on Monday, backed the proposal but raised concerns about the pace of proposed changes, increases in travelling time to access services and continuity of care.
And there was strong feeling from members of the public who attended the meeting. One man stormed out while Deputy Leader Ian Parry was speaking, declaring the process “a whitewash”.
Councillor Parry said: “There was a significant amount of people against the change but (the consultation) is not a referendum, it is a conversation. What we are proposing is something we believe in – we believe it is the right thing and over time it will be proved it was the right thing.”
Councillor Alan White, Cabinet Member for Care, said: “I acknowledge that in some parts of the county the activities we want people to do aren’t there yet, and I know from visits I have undertaken that this is a difficult change for people. But I know this is the right way to go
“The evidence from experts in the field points in the direction of doing what we are proposing. It has become the standard view that providing services in the community for people able to do it is a better way.”
Council leader Philip Atkins said: “As Councillor Parru said, it isn’t a referendum. It isn’t that the proposal that gets the most votes is the one we go for.
“It is about protecting and supporting these people that need our help. We have been clear throughout the stages various stages of our consultation and it’s about enabling people to lead fulfilled lives, not prescribing to people but supporting their living arrangements.
“Change is not necessarily wrong or negative. We believe passionately in giving people a say in their care.”
But Councillor Charlotte Atkins, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Disabilities, said: “The Cabinet’s decision is a leap in the dark.
“The county council has already admitted that many areas of the county, for instance the Moorlands, Cannock and Kidsgrove have ‘underdeveloped’ replacement services for people with learning disabilities. Yet they are still racing ahead to close this vital lifeline to hundreds of our most vulnerable people and their dedicated carers.”