Brooke Farm faces controversial changes by Nottinghamshire County Council

Workers at Brooke Farm
Workers at Brooke Farm

Plans to change a Linby-based council facility into a more formal training and employment hub is being met with objections.

Brooke Farm, owned by Nottinghamshire County Council, is a horticultural base which currently provides training and employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.

In a meeting with council representatives just before Christmas, service users and their families were told that the facility is earmarked for a transformation with a £350,ooo cash boost.

This money will be used to fund new staff to run the service, up to £200,000 to create a new café and £92,000 for a new recreation room.

It is hoped that the move will increase employment opportunities elsewhere once a training course has been completed.

But the adaptations to the facility will come at a higher cost for some who fear their sons and daughters will be left out in the cold.

“I don’t think the council are being honest with their proposals,” said Hucknall’s Kenneth Vere, whose son David has attended Brooke Farm for 12 years.

“My son, like many others, benefits enormously from the farm, learning skills and interacting socially and generally enjoying life in a safe place.

According to Mr Vere, under the changes, trainees will be screened for suitability to the scheme and employability and time spent at Brooke Farm will now be limited, which has caused fear amongst families.

“Where does this leave us if David isn’t accepted?” asked Mr Vere. “It is extremely frustrating for us and other families and carers as we realise that many people who use Brooke Farm are simply not suitable for employment elsewhere.

“David has Down’s Syndrome and needs help crossing the road, so if he did manage to complete the course and gain employment how is he going to get there and home safely?”

The council’s consultation period is due to end on Monday 2nd February.

Defending the plans, Coun Muriel Weisz, chairman of NCC’s adult social care and health committee, said: “Whilst the current service has many benefits for service users, very few trainees progress through the service as there is no dedicated support to help them move into vocational opportunities.

“This means there is little scope for new people to join the service. The council also offers work experience placements with major local employers for people with learning disabilities, which has proved successful in securing vocational opportunities for many of those involved. It is hoped this approach will be applied to the training hub at Brooke Farm.”

Coun Weisz said there would be opportunities for current service users at the farm to continue but only if they were willing to ‘seek vocational opportunities’ otherwise they would be helped in ‘finding alternative activities such as joining a day service or volunteering’.

This is the outcome that troubles Mr Vere.

“It is highly unlikely that the existing service-users will find part-time or full-time work because of the level of their disabilities,” he added.

“This is simply the council’s way of shrinking costs, not directly to Brooke Farm, but by limiting facilities elsewhere and only accepting minimum responsibility for a large number of people with learning disabilities.