Day Centres Face Axe In Birmingham City Council Cost-Cutting

Two day centres for young adults with learning difficulties are in line for closure as part of a Birmingham City Council cost-cutting plan. The units, in the south of the city at West Heath and in Hockley, are set to become the latest victims of a social services cash crisis.

A leaked memo from the council’s director of adults and communities, Peter Hay, warns that a review of service provision seems certain to identify the Hockley and Collingwood day centres as being under-used and too expensive to keep open. The buildings cost £2.1 million a year to run and are used by about 140 people five days a week.

In a memo to staff, Mr Hay said the closure of day centres was necessary to address substantial overspending in learning disability services.

Last month the council admitted that a projected social services budget deficit was largely due to the steady growth in the number of adults requiring help. The cost of the learning disability service has risen from £9 million a year in 2006/07 to almost £51 million a year now.

There are estimated to be about 25,000 people in Birmingham with mild or moderate learning difficulties, and the number is increasing each year.

The review of day centres is part of a continuing search for savings in the Adults and Communities Department.

A maximum £100 weekly charge for home help services is to be scrapped, leaving anyone with savings of more than £22,500 to pay the full cost of their care.

Mr Hay said: “We face a very serious situation in our budgets for learning disability services.

“That we are still substantially over budget is not a sustainable position.

“It is not for the Strategic Director or any other manager to say that any particular centre will close and this has to be determined through the democratic process. However, I am willing to confirm that our current criteria, covering geography, repair costs, utilisation rates and unit costs suggest that Collingwood and Hockley day centres are most likely to be proposed as the centres which would go to consultation on closure.

“The directorate is taking a range of measures, including its work with NHS partners, to address the long term issues in the funding of learning disability services.”

A three-month consultation process with staff and centre users has begun, which will result in closure recommendations being put to the cabinet.

A scrutiny inquiry earlier this year accused the council of starving adult day services of resources for many years.

It said the city should work more closely with the voluntary sector to identify alternative provision.

Most of the council’s 25 day centres, which cost more than £10 million to run, are not used to their full capacity. There are 926 day centre places in Birmingham for adults with learning disabilities, but only 600 are used on average.