The day centres in Ashbourne, Wirksworth, Renishaw and Oxcroft Lane, Bolsover, were all earmarked for closure in phase one of Derbyshire County Council’s proposed day service redesign, however enquiries by the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed they were already disused prior to the conclusion of the consultation on Sunday, June 19.
Responding to the accusations of opposition councillors, Conservative Cabinet Member for Adult Care Councillor Natalie Hoy stated: “We would not mothball our day centres.”
The authority maintains it is ‘not correct’ to describe Oxcroft Lane as closed, as services have been ‘concentrated’ at Carter Lane, Bolsover.
Similarly services at Renishaw have been moved to Coal Ashton.
The council says there were only two service users attending Ashbourne and Wirskworth day centres, both of whom now have alternative provision.
Coun Hoy said: “During the pandemic we had to adapt some of the services we offered to ensure the safety of people using the centres and our staff, and as we come out of the pandemic we continue to run nine day centres although demand is very low for some of them, as people have found alternatives which better suit their needs.”
However the news has been met with suspicion by the opposition, who feel the outcome of the consultation has already been predetermined.
Labour Leader Councillor Joan Dixon commented: “It feels like a fait accompli.”
She added: “It’s almost making a mockery of the consultation process.”
The day centre closure proposals follow hot on the heels of a decision by the authority to close seven care homes for the elderly, despite the negative feedback of a public consultation, because it claimed their poor state of repair made them unsafe.
Coun Dixon questioned why the council was putting residents through another consultation process.
“People think that if they make a submission and tell their story that they’re going to be listened to, but they won’t listen,” she said.
However Coun Hoy was adamant people’s views were being listened to and no decision had been made.
She said many people didn’t want a ‘building-based service’ any more.
“They want a package that means they can go swimming, they can do activities with their friends, they can go to the cinema, they want employment opportunities, they want accommodation opportunities,” Coun Hoy commented.
The council has proposed employing community connectors to initially work with service users and put together an individual package based on their needs.
Coun Hoy explained: “They’ll speak to the local community and find out everything that the community has to offer based on the needs and wants of the person and to give them a package that’s tailored to them.”
Community connectors will help service users find employment and volunteer opportunities where appropriate, however many have criticised the service, saying many people with severe learning disabilities are incapable of working or volunteering.
Coun Hoy said she was aware independence ‘wasn’t something everybody could have’, which was why the council was proposing to keep the following four day centres open – No Limits (Chesterfield), Parkwood (Amber Valley), Outlook (Long Eaton) and Alderbrook (High Peak).
She stated: “Those with more complex needs would still be able to access day centre-based services and we have pledged that we will meet travel costs to centres for those current and new service users, should the proposals be agreed.”
The cabinet member responded to comments from opposition councillors that the Conservative Party was ‘ideologically driven’ by a view that care services should be provided by the private sector.
“I think the reason we’re here as politicians is to deliver the best service we can for the people of Derbyshire, sometimes that’s done in house and sometimes that’s working with our partners,” Coun Hoy said.
“Partnerships are very important for any authority.
“So it’s important that we provide some of the services ourselves, but we should use our partners as well.”
The council is proposing to work with partners in the volunteer and private sector to continue the delivery of services to people with learning difficulties, however this has raised concerns for some.
Councillor Donna Hales, of Bolsover District Council, said: “We’re going to try and rely upon the voluntary sector to be regulated.
“I really do worry about safeguarding issues.”
She commented that many private sector workers were ‘poorly paid and deskilled’.
Phase two of the proposals would see services in Amber Valley moved from Whitemoor to Parkwood, followed by the closure of services in Coal Ashton (North East Derbyshire), Carter Lane (Bolsover), Whitwell (Bolsover) and Newhall (South Derbyshire).