Norwich day centres at risk?
Shaun LowthorpeHundreds of people benefitting from the use of three Norwich day centres for people with learning difficulties will find out in the summer whether they will remain open or not.Shaun Lowthorpe
Hundreds of people benefitting from the use of three Norwich day centres for people with learning difficulties will find out in the summer whether they will remain open or not.
In Norwich 103 people use Norwich Day Services, in Ipswich Road, while 123 make use of Sprowston Day Services, in Aslake Close, and 27 attend sessions at Blackhorse Centre in Hooper Lane.
Norfolk County Council is planning a switch to more care in the community as part of a shift aimed at saving �600,000.
But that could see three out of nine centres across the county sold off and closed and critics have accused the authority of rushing ahead without thinking through the plans.
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James Joyce, Lib Dem spokesman for adult social care at Norfolk County Council, said the Conservative administration needed to think carefully before dismantling the system.
'I just don't believe it sends out the right message that we are a caring society,' he said. 'They should really examine what they are doing, but I honestly don't believe they have put that thought process in to it.
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Brenda Arthur, executive member for housing and adult services at Norwich City Council, said it was important that any changes were properly resourced.
'There is an issue about being very clear that the same level of service can be provided if it's not from the centres,' she said. 'Clearly the services came about because that was a good way of delivering them. We shouldn't be pushing vulnerable people back in to the community without making sure there is adequate provision for them.'
Kate Jones, Mencap's community development officer for Norfolk, urged the authority to listen carefully to the views of people using the service.
'While we recognise changes may be due, this consultation period needs to be focused and real,' she said. 'People have differing needs and it is vital that parents, carers and people with a learning disability have their views heard and taken into account.'
David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services said users would still have access to services but it is the buildings which are the issue.
'We are not proposing to withdraw services from any individuals,' Mr Harwood said. 'We want our service users to be actively involved in the community and we know that more people are accessing work related opportunities or taking part in activities in the community, and therefore some of our traditional in-house buildings are underused.
'It's important to stress that no decisions have been made about any individual day centres,' he added. 'We will be reviewing the suitability of our day centre buildings and detailed proposals on how the identified savings can be achieved are likely to go back to cabinet for approval in the summer.'
Are you or one of your family a user of the day centre services? Contact Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org