Councillors and officials have been forced to defend their decision to shake-up the way care is provided for those with learning difficulties in Rotherham after hearing from relatives who accused them of putting money saving ahead of the impact on those involved in the changes.
The council’s ruling Cabinet has agreed to changes which will see the closure two day centres and two respite centres, though the council has agreed to postpone a decision on closing a care home to allow further consultations on its future to take place.
It means the Oaks Day Centre and Addison Day Centres will go, along with the Treefields and Quarryhill respite services, leaving the future of the Parkhill residential home hanging in the balance until a decision is made later.
But before the Cabinet made the decision to follow a recommendation to move to a service focused on individuals and their needs, rather than the existing ‘building based’ approach, they heard from a succession of distraught relatives of people happily using the existing facilities.
Mary Beck told the meeting: “Closing day centres and respite buildings doesn’t make much financial sense for the council in the long term.
“Sixty four young people attending the Addison centre life at home with parents.
“If you put these young people back onto parents they will become exhausted. They will possibly have nervous breakdowns and you will finish up with a lot of these in full time care and it will cost an awful lot more.
“Parents are already stressed looking after these young people.
“I desperately want to keep my son at home. Please reconsider this and look again at what you are doing. You are going to absolutely devastate people’s lives,” she said.
Others criticised the amount of information they had been given by the council so far and accused the authority of acting to save money rather than providing the best care for those who use the current service – something the council has strongly denied.
One woman told councillors she felt “really scared” for her relative’s future and another has a sister who lives at Parkhill and attends the Addison day centre.
“No-one has spoken to my sister and she will be absolutely devastated. Even if it closes for a day she is disappointed, this will drag her life from under her feet, it is really disgusting.”
Coun David Roche, who is responsible for adult social care, said the decision to consult further on the Parkhill home’s future had been taken in response to what the council had heard.
The other changes were being introduced because the council wanted to improve the service it provides, with packages tailored to individuals rather than focusing resources on the larger day centres.
“This report is about the way we want to imprve the service, to work with people to improve their lives and aspirations. It is not about the buildings at all, I want to make that absolutely clear.”
Under the council plan, the change will take place of a phased basis, with new plans drawn up for individuals before they switch from the day centre care to alternatives.
“People with learning difficulties have a right to be treated the same as everyone else,” said Coun Roche.
“That is what we are trying to do, it is about working with individuals to meet their needs. This report is not about carers or buidings, it is about putting people at the heart of what we do.
“They key focus is to provide better services. For the sake of vulnerable people, we cannot do nothing.”
The council has accepted however that to continue with the existing day care and respite arrangements would “totally bankrupt” the authority and the new arrangements will cut costs by £3m, but will leave “a very big service.”