Day centre shared-use plan is put forward

DAY centres for learning disabled adults may be shared with private sector and voluntary organisations, rather than handed over to them, Cambridgeshire County Council said this week. Carers fear that vulnerable people would be put at risk by Government-in

DAY centres for learning disabled adults may be shared with private sector and voluntary organisations, rather than handed over to them, Cambridgeshire County Council said this week.

Carers fear that vulnerable people would be put at risk by Government-inspired moves to make support more flexible, giving money directly to them rather than keeping open under-used day centres.

The council was planning to hand over ownership or management of the centres to the private and voluntary sectors, but may now be having second thoughts.

"One thing that has emerged from the consultation with learning disabled adults and carers is the idea that others could share use of the centres," a council spokesman said this week. "But there are definitely no plans to close them at the moment," he added. "The range of options has now broadened to include shared use as a result of our listening to what has been said to us."


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But he acknowledged that the uncertainty was worrying for all concerned. "That's why we want the consultation to be thorough but quick, with all the information being put to cabinet for a decision in October."

In the meantime, the parent of one such adult has questioned the council's claims for under-use of the centres.

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In an interview with The Hunts Post last week, Penny Butler, who has been brought in by CCC to manage the reorganisation, said Bargroves in St Neots had space for 100 users, but only 29 used it. The Community Access Today centre at St Ives - CATS - was described by Ms Butler as "not disability compliant". It is proposed that CCC look for an alternative venue in St Ives.

George Wilkie, chairman of the Friends of St Michael's Association (now Huntingdon Community Centre), disputed the council's figures. He said: "CCC states that Huntingdon Community Centre has capacity for 100 people but only 33 use it. This is blatantly untrue, as the true number of attenders is around 70. CATS in St Ives is said to cater for 14 on a daily basis, whereas it has 23 users on its books.

"Claiming that the property occupied by CATS is one of the reasons for the review because of its unsuitability for the disabled is laughable."

Ms Butler was emphatic, however, that major changes must be made to deliver the Government's commitment to give more people with learning disabilities a wider choice in the level of service they receive. She said that, before changes were made, every user of the day centres would be given one-to-one interviews and assessments.

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