Fears over future of learning centres

SOCIAL services could pull out of centres used by adults with learning difficulties, such as Bargroves in St Neots, threatening their life in the community, a parent fears. Cambridgeshire County Council insists that a fundamental review of day services is

SOCIAL services could pull out of centres used by adults with learning difficulties, such as Bargroves in St Neots, threatening their life in the community, a parent fears.

Cambridgeshire County Council insists that a fundamental review of day services is not a cash-saving exercise, though it "expects there will be elements of cost saving".

The review follows a White paper urging local authorities to change the way services are provided, giving recipients a greater choice of options, a spokesman said.

Service users and carers have been told by the council's interim head of disability services, Penny Butler: "Most people go to the day centre. This does not give much choice. Sometimes people stay there all day or just go out for a few hours. The plan to improve opportunities will give you more choice and control about the things you want."

She said that, from March next year, the learning disability partnership led by CCC would no longer own the day centres or manage their staff, and affected adults could be given money to go out to do what they wanted, such as swimming or to football matches.

The spokesman said final proposals would be presented to the council's cabinet in September and would be likely to include transferring ownership of day centres to the private sector or management to voluntary organisations.

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"We may no longer run Bargroves, but it won't necessarily close," he stressed.

But Hunts Post reader Irene Wakefield, 78, from Holt in Norfolk, whose 53-year-old daughter, also Irene, has attended the Bargroves Centre since it opened 30 years ago, fears for the future.

"All her activities and present lifestyle are due to Bargroves for their care and understanding. Left to her own decisions, she will go backwards. These people need a great deal of motivation.

"Irene has her own flat, home help once a week, can use the phone, does her own shopping and attends church. But she does not use public transport and is very wary of using taxis."

The county council insisted that it would retain responsibility for service standards and commissioning under the new arrangements.

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