Wirral Council defends its mandate for changes to respite care

WIRRAL Council launched a defence of its controversial decision to close respite centres and transfer care to the private and voluntary sector.

Responding to Wirral News’ front page comment on January 26, which questioned the mandate to change said to have been delivered by the Your Future: Be a Part of It consultation, head of adult social services, Howard Cooper said: “I don’t think we would dispute the numbers but one of the things done was to add the number against to the number expressing ‘no firm opinion’.

“If you had taken the number in favour as a percentage of those expressing a firm opinion, it would have looked a great deal more positive.

“The numbers presented could have been done in a different way, and it would have shown of those people expressing a firm opinion, the majority were in favour of the steps taken.”

On January 26, Wirral News pointed out that, although 48.8% of respondents agreed with the proposal to transfer care to the third sector, 36.5% disagreed and14.6% held ‘no strong opinion’, putting those in favour in the minority.

But Howard Cooper defended the plans: “We believe there are viable and good quality alternatives for respite care for both people with learning difficulties and people with mental health issues.

“We already have provision in the independent sector for people with those needs and are currently out to tender and talking to providers about how they might be able to offer additional capacity to provide for people who previously might have gone to Mapleholme or Fernleigh.”

Howard Cooper added: “We’re also keen to work with Wirral Mencap and other providers to the voluntary sector.

“Mrs Seller (of Mencap) has joined our transitional group, along with other representatives, to make sure the provision we make absolutely meets the needs of the vulnerable people involved.”

Wirral Mencap’s Gwen Seller told Wirral News: “Council officers have been handed this impossible task of implementing a policy at breakneck speed within minimal timescale and obviously whatever the outcome, without objection to way it has been carried out, we want to make sure that the service users, the people at the sharp end, and their families, get the best out of the process – whatever that is.”

Wirral Mencap is still exploring the possibility of a legal challenge to the plans.