Rethink on day centres

THE county council is set radically to amend its proposals to axe day centres across the county for those with learning disabilities following a storm of protest. But the review will still mean massive changes for those using day centres in St Neots, St I

THE county council is set radically to amend its proposals to axe day centres across the county for those with learning disabilities following a storm of protest.

But the review will still mean massive changes for those using day centres in St Neots, St Ives and Huntingdon as the county council moves to save some of the £3million a year spent on providing 300 places in seven centres. About 80 staff are employed by the council across all seven centres and these too will be affected by the shake-up.

At a special briefing at Shire Hall, Cambridge, on Tuesday night, Penny Butler, head of disabilities for the county council, admitted mistakes had been made in letters sent out earlier in the year announcing the review. She conceded an initial briefing document sent to parents, carers and councillors was "clumsy and inadequate" but Ms Butler said the council was now on track to deliver firm recommendations to cabinet in the autumn.

She said Bargroves in St Neots was under used, and it was proposed to share the building with other users or look for a smaller "and more appropriate building". The centre has space for 100 users, but only 29 use it.


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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.

Ms Butler was emphatic, however, that major changes must be made by the county council to deliver the Government's commitment to give more people with learning disabilities a wider choice in the level of service they receive.

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She said the current plan was to invite the voluntary sector to take over either the buildings or running of the services on a town by town basis, but before changes were made every user of the day centres would be given one-to-one interviews and assessments made of their needs.

By using the voluntary sector, she said, people could have wider choices and receive payments to fund those requirements.

"We are not proposing to stop services," said Ms Butler. "We are proposing to provide them in a different way. We wish to build on and develop the changes that have happened to date."

Ms Butler said changes must be made, however, since younger adults were "voting with their feet" and dropping out of using day care centres.

"But this process has never been about closure or costs - it's been about choice."

- Huntingdon Community Centre (formerly St Michael's) has a capacity for 100 people each day, only 33 use it and CATS has capacity for 20, only 14 use it, CCC said.

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