Day Centres Facing Closure
A series of drastic cutbacks to adult social care in Wiltshire have been proposed by a cash-strapped council desperate to plug a £7m budget deficit. People with learning difficulties, those needing respite care and the elderly will bear the brunt of the cutbacks as Wiltshire County Council’s cabinet prepares to discuss cuts to day care facilities as part of a corporate recovery plan. The move follows the announcement earlier this year that the council faces a £7m budget shortfall in 2006/07. Dr Keith Robinson, chief executive of the council, admitted the cutbacks would cause anxiety.
The proposed closure of Sonas House respite unit has come about because West Wiltshire Primary Care Trust has withdrawn a significant amount of funding for it. At the moment it provides short break respite care for 33 adults with learning and physical disabilities and employs 20 staff. The county council says those people will be able to go use a new centre in Devizes, but this will not be open until October 2007, whereas Sonas House would close in April.
The council vowed to find an alternative respite care centre between April and October. The Ashton Street Centre in Trowbridge, which provides day care for adults with learning disabilities, could also close and new premises rented instead.
Liz McAnaw’s son Andrew, 22, is severely mentally and physically disabled and uses the centre every day. Mrs McAnaw, 47, said she would consider putting him in a home if the centre was closed or transport was not provided to it.
She said: “It is not something I want to do, but I have a right to a life of my own and I have other children to look after. They would have to have him full time which would cost thousands of pounds a week – it’s short sighted of them.”
A day centre for elderly people in Church Street, Trowbridge is earmarked for closure as well, and the council is reviewing its contract with The Order of St John Care Trust, which provides most of the day care in the county.
Trowbridge mayor Cllr Tom James was outraged at the proposals to cut day care services and said: “It is almost becoming a crime to be old or ill these days. We are being shafted by the PCT who are closing centres, so the only places people can go are the day centres – now they are being closed. It’s just got stupid.”
The council is planning to open four specialist day centres for older people requiring higher levels of day care and wants adults who use day centres to use more drop-in centres and so-called low level support services.
Ian Davey, interim head of adult and community services, said: “This is primarily not about finance or cuts – we should be changing our day services for the future for people with learning disabilities. There will clearly be a number of people who need a personalised service but for more able people we will be helping them in a variety of ways. A number of them do not want or do not need to go to day centres. The council will consult with all service users before changes are implemented.”