A residential home, respite and day centres could be closed in Rotherham as the council looks to overhaul the way it provides services for those with learning disabilities in future.
Consultations have been carried out over the proposals and a final version will go before the council’s ruling cabinet later this month which, if approved, will see the authority switch to a service it says will be based around people rather than buildings.
That will pave the way for the “phased decommissioning” of the Parkhill residential home, Oaks and Addison day centres and the Treefields and Quarryhill respite services, in Wingfield and Wath, over a period of two years.
The council would maintain a day centre for those with needs which meant alternative support was not appropriate and that facility, called REACH, is currently based at Basley Moor Lane and Maple Avenue in Maltby, however that too could change, with the council stating it would “consider whether these are the best buildings for this purpose in the future”.
According to the council, demand for traditional ‘day services’ has been in decline for years and it wants to offer instead alternatives which provide more independence and leave individuals in greater control of their lives.
They say new arrangements would leave people in closer contact with local communities and with greater opportunities to get paid jobs, following patterns already used by other local authorities.
An objective of the changes is to offer services closer to home for those who use them, working from community buildings such as leisure centres.
However, before any individual was subject to change, they would be reviewed by social workers to ensure they would be getting the support their circumstances meant were needed.
Trials have already taken place with a social enterprise organisation called Community Catalysts, with those attending day centres offered the chance to get involved in community activities.
The council say feedback from that has been positive.
Janet Rigden is from Swinton and her daughter has been attending services in the community for the past year. She said: “Since my daughter started attending community based sessions she has quite simply come alive – to see the life skills she’s developed has been amazing.
“For 13 years she attended Oaks day centre and then when we spoke to the council about other opportunities we thought, why not give it a try.
“This was best decision we made and after only a couple of taster sessions she refused point blank to go back to her old day centre. She now gets involved in various activities throughout the week from swimming and drama club to cinema trips and cooking and eating sessions.”
Linda Storey, also from Swinton has seen her son transition from Oaks day centre to community based services. He got involved in many of the same activities but his main passion has always been for music and singing. Linda said: “For as long as I can remember my son has wanted to be a singer and since attending the sessions he got the chance to be part of a band.
“His dreams really have become reality and the band has now performed in a local pub, with more performances in the pipeline. It’s just amazing to see. He was anxious when we first took him to the sessions but we’ve never looked back. My main priority is that my son has a choice. If didn’t have his disability he would be making all sorts of life choices so getting the support he needs shouldn’t be any different.”
The Parkhill residential home is not up to national standards of good practice and there are also problems with deterioration of the building, with the best option seen to be closure.
Cabinet spokesman for Adult Social Care and Health, Coun David Roche, said: “The rigorous review of our learning and disability services began nearly three years ago and during that time we have looked at good practice in other local authorities, national research and consulted with people who use our services and their families.
“Even before we began the review, people with learning disabilities who were reaching adulthood and their families were already generally choosing not to go into day centres. Instead, the people who we’ve spoken to have told us that they want the same quality of life as everyone else and want to be able to live more independently with greater choice. In order to enable people to participate in society we must offer community based services that promote independence, wellbeing and social inclusion.
“We appreciate that some people will feel anxious during this time and we want to do everything in our gift to make this transition as smooth as possible and ensure that people are communicated with and engaged in the process so they are clear about what it means for them,” he said.