We trust the care professionals

FURTHER to your report of the meeting at St Michael s Day Centre, I would like to express my views as a parent of a young disabled adult who has attended St Michael s for the past 17 years. The outline proposal by those in charge of services for the disa

FURTHER to your report of the meeting at St Michael's Day Centre, I would like to express my views as a parent of a young disabled adult who has attended St Michael's for the past 17 years.

The outline proposal by those in charge of services for the disabled in the county appears to be an exercise in how to divest themselves of the responsibility of caring for the people in their charge.

We were told that Cambridgeshire County Council will cease ownership of the premises and management of existing day centres by March 2009, and will work with a range of partners in the voluntary sector to develop choices in line with the wishes of people with learning disability and their families and carers.

These will be purchased with direct payments and individual budgets as well as council-funded.

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The problem is that few of those who attend day centres have the ability to understand or control their own finances, which is one reason they are there in the first place.

By making those in their care responsible for their own choice of what they would like to do on a daily basis, no thought appears to have been given to who will look after them as they travel in search of entertainment, although it is fairly obvious that this task will fall upon parents and carers.

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Parents and carers currently receive 35 hours of daytime respite by the availability of day care services, but are still left with 133 hours every week to look after their charges, so any diminution of hours of day care would be a severe blow.

The question of direct payments is highly questionable as in some instances it could mean that such funding might not find its way towards entertainment and could conceivably condemn the service-user to a life of abject boredom.

Why on earth would the council consider replacing staff at the centres with people from the voluntary sector?

Why would we wish our charges to be looked after by amateurs rather by professionals? The replacements will still require payment and the buildings will still require maintenance, so who will take responsibility for this?

Day care centres, such as St Michael's in Huntingdon and Bargroves in St Neots, have been with us for many years and offer safe and trusted havens for those who attend them on a daily basis.

The overwhelming wish of those who attended the meetings was that the council dropped its plans and maintained the status quo.

I have attended many such meetings over the years and have seldom left feeling elated at the proposals involving the future of day care services. Most of these meetings have been at the request of the hierarchy of social services in Shire Hall to inform us of some intended cut in services.

This time it appears that the intention is not to nibble away as in the past, but to take a huge bite from what is left and, having done that, simply throw the remainder on the rubbish pile.

We were told by the woman who holds the title of "interim head of disability services" that she is simply following guidelines issued by the Government.

That raises two issues. If she is simply the interim head, why not wait until someone is appointed as head to review the services and, if she is so prepared to follow Government guidelines, perhaps she would like to note the chaos that such guidelines have created in education, the NHS etc.

It ain't broke, why fix it?

GEORGE WILKIE, chairman, Friends of St Michael's, Mill Lane, Hemingford Grey

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