Protestors packed the public gallery at a Rotherham Council meeting where plans to close day care centres for those with learning disabilities were rubber-stamped – with the authority’s adult social care spokesman facing a barrage of questions about how the new system will operate.
Plans to replace much of the ‘building based’ day care service were approved by the council’s ruling cabinet and the decision of that meeting has now been confirmed by a meeting of the full council, clearing the path for a full review which is expected to see many of those who use day centres transferred to a system where they will have their own carers instead.
Rotherham Council insist the new arrangements should provide an improved service, though it is also acknowledged the authority has to save money as part of the ongoing austerity cuts.
However, Coun David Roche, the council’s spokesman for adult social care, was repeatedly asked about how the new system will function and the impact on those who currently use day care centres by several people in a public questions session at the start of the meeting.
One of those who attended was a woman who currently uses a day care centre and simply asked why the council were closing it.
Under the new scheme, some people will be granted money to buy in their own care but of those asking questions said the figure would work out at £7.80 an hour and questioned the quality of service which would be available at that price.
He responded by saying: “Direct care is an option we have to put on the table, it is not the only option available.”
The council was also criticised because the new arrangement will put those with disabilities out in the wider community, with a fear they could be subject to ridicule or abuse and Coun Roche responded that would constitute hate crime and added: “I don’t think it is good enough that people with learning disabilities should be segregated. Any form of hate crime is appalling.”
Council leader Chris Reid told the meeting: “We have to recognise that councils make difficult decisions about the best way to provide services.
“That is what we are trying to do and what we will continue to do. I hope very much what you will see are better services for people with disabilities and better support.
“I know it is upsetting and emotional. We have to make the right decisions, we have to make the calls.”
A consultation process is now due to start to assess the needs of all those who receive care from the council who may be affected.
Some ‘building based’ services will remain available, but the council is unable to estimate how many of those who currently use day centres might need that type of support, until the assessments have been carried out.