Derbyshire Council is set to start a consultation on plans which could permanently close eight of its 12 day centres – including one in Shirebrook – which provide support for people with autism and other special education needs.
Alongside ongoing plans which could see seven council care homes closed, this has caused the authority’s Labour opposition to question ‘what vulnerable group will they target next?’
Coun Natalie Hoy, council cabinet member for adult care, claimed closing the centres would enable the council to ‘make better use of the resources we have available to help more people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic lead more independent and fulfilled lives’.
The council is to offer an option to keep all 12 of its day centres open, but says this would mean it is ‘unable’ to ‘free up investment’ to change ‘community-based support’ services.
It says 139 people with special educational needs currently use the 12 centres and 48 of these people – clients at the centres which close – would be affected by the plans.
A report to be discussed on Thursday, March 10, claims fewer people are using the service.
The council says ‘the majority of people with complex needs live in the locality of these day centres’, but that transport would be made available to an alternative centre if their local one is closed.
Centres at risk of closure include Carter Lane in Shirebrook, as well as Oxcroft, on Oxcroft Lane, Bolsover.
The remaining services would be ‘consolidated’ into the remaining four centres, including Parkwood in Alfreton Park, Amber Valley, over 12 months.
People using Carter Lane would be referred to the community connector service to find alternative support.
Coun Joan Dixon, Labour Group leader, said: “As with our care homes, the Conservative administration at Derbyshire Council seem hellbent on destroying much-respected, locally based provision for purely ideological reasons.
“First they want to shut old people’s homes, now day centres for those with learning disabilities. What vulnerable group will they target next?”
Coun Ed Fordham, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “Given the shock waves the council has already started with the threat to care homes, I am astonished the same portfolio holder, Coun Hoy, is now threatening closures on day care facilities.
“This is a council leadership looking increasingly cruel with their financial decisions, totally misunderstanding the growing demand for care and support within local communities.”
Coun Hoy has said: “This is about people having the best quality of life they can. Everyone deserves to live an independent and fulfilling life.
“People with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic have told us they want the same opportunities as everyone else – the freedom and support to get involved in their community, join groups, go out with friends, learn new skills, volunteer or seek recruitment.
“Instead of trying to fit people into services we have available, we are keen to ensure our support focuses on an individual’s strengths to help them achieve personal goals.”
“We are committed to supporting people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic, their families and carers and traditional services such as day centres may not always be the best way to do this.”