Day Care Centres Slammed In Report

An inquiry into day-centre provision for vulnerable people in Birmingham has blasted an inadequate service starved of resources and based in “dismal” buildings not fit for purpose. The scrutiny committee investigation hit out at a lack of purpose or vision by the city council’s social services directorate, with elderly people spending their days playing bingo and being sucked into a dependency culture.

The 34 council-run day centres for older adults and people with learning and physical disabilities were failing to meet the needs of users, the inquiry found.

Managers were resistant to change and placed little emphasis on positive outcomes for those in their care.

After inspecting several day centres, committee members hit out at a lack of innovation and vision. Services had been left to drift with no investment and little strategic management. The physical condition of the day centres attracted severe criticism in the scrutiny report: “Members found the condition of many of the buildings to be poor and in need of urgent attention.

“The condition of the buildings impacts on service users’ perception of the service provided and reflects badly on the Social Care and Health Directorate.

“From the outside premises were uninviting. Some were located in pre-fabricated buildings whilst others looked like large institutions or industrial buildings. At one centre the entrance was covered in graffiti despite staff’s attempts to keep it free of graffiti.

“Buildings had received little or no capital investment or maintenance, leading to the buildings being in a state of disrepair.”

Len Clark, who chaired the inquiry, said day centres were a lifeline for many families and carers, yet services were being delivered through “tired, rundown and inappropriate” buildings. He said: “There are pockets of good delivery, but we were not at all impressed by what we saw. We are not critical of individual members of staff. We are critical of the strategic direction of the service and the failure to provide a degree of priority to its development.”

Coun Clark (Con Quinton) added: “Most services appear to be delivered to fixed and rigid schedules which in most instances are not sufficiently flexible or suitable for users and carers. This organisational model presents a serious constraint to the future development of a modern service.”

Birmingham’s inadequacies were compared by the committee with day care provided by Shropshire County Council, which was based on an “innovative” community-based model of provision.

The scrutiny report warned: “Day services in Birmingham have been starved of resources for many years. Service users should not have to use buildings that are not fit for purpose.

“Social Care and Health must take urgent steps to modernise and improve current day service provision which is traditional, inflexible and failing many users and carers. Services must promote independence, choice and well-being rather than creating dependency.”