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'Carers are at their wits' end'

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 27, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

Part of the present buildings at the Moorlands Day Centre situated in Buxton Road, Leek which will now be downsized.

Part of the present buildings at the Moorlands Day Centre situated in Buxton Road, Leek which will now be downsized.

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THE Moorlands Day Service centre in Leek is to be downsized after proposals to transform the way care and support for people with learning disabilities is delivered were approved.

However, the decision agreed by Staffordshire County Council's ruling cabinet have been 'called in' by opposition councillors who have described the consultation programme a "sham".

It now means the matter will have to go before the county council's cabinet to look at again.

Following a three-month consultation, the council agreed to create new bespoke centres to help those with the most complex needs, together with offering packages of support to help others.

The packages of support could include a range of alternatives including education, employment and a variety of day activities within the local community.

As part of the programme everyone who currently uses the day centres will now be assessed.

The moves means that the present centre in Buxton Road, Leek, will be downsized to just an annex at the site.

Leek South councillor, Charlotte Atkins, who is Labour's shadow cabinet member for adult care and disabilities at the county council, said: "The cabinet's decision is a leap in the dark.

"The county council has already admitted that many areas have 'underdeveloped' replacement services for people with learning disabilities. Yet they are still racing ahead to close this vital lifeline to hundreds of our most vulnerable people and their dedicated carers.

"The county council's consultation was a complete sham. Eighty per cent of respondents rejected the privatisation of support services for people with learning disabilities. But the cabinet has ignored public opinion and stuck with their original decision to close the day centres and farm out support to independent providers."

"Thirty per cent of all adults who currently use the day centres are likely to be assessed as no longer eligible for support under the cabinet's new plans. Yet there is no right of appeal against such assessments.

"Carers are at their wits' end, terrified that their lifeline, their only chance of respite from caring for their loved ones, is being torn away with nothing credible to replace it."

Alan White, cabinet member for care at the county council, said: "The review of how we support people with learning disabilities is all about improving the quality of support people receive to live better, more fulfilled lives rather than 'fitting' people into what is already available.

"It is about offering people choices and flexibility, focussing on what people can achieve with the right support rather than what they can't.

"Increasingly we have seen more people with learning disabilities finding jobs, voluntary work and lasting friendships within the community, which is something we want for as many as people as possible.

"We recognise people with more complex needs require a higher level of support and believe that smaller, specialist modern centres rather than large, outdated and impersonal buildings are the best settings to provide this."

One carer told the Post & Times: "Many of the people with learning disabilities will not be able to go out in the community. Elderly carers will not be able to cope 24/7.

"People have not been listened to. Also, what will happen to the empty buildings?"

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