Continued from Part 4.
Graham Hodkinson responded by saying that he didn’t agree and that all the services had enough capacity to downsize and that it was staffing where the savings were.
A member of the public pointed out that Pensby Wood Day Centre had less spare capacity than that would be generated from a closure of a large centre and that a large day centre was more efficient.
Graham Hodkinson said that the most efficient would be one really big day service, but the result of the consultation in 2012 was people wanted smaller services so they were trying to balance the two.
A member of the public asked for financial figures on the cost of running Dale Farm, Royden Park and Best Bites and asked if they were running efficiently or were over budget? They pointed out that users weren’t always being charged and that the closure of a day centre hadn’t been mentioned at the start of the consultation. The same member of the public said they contested the comparison figures dating back to 2004 as in 2004 it wasn’t the same type of service, they also said officers hadn’t replied as to whether the figures were correct or not. The member of the public felt they wouldn’t listen to the view of wanting alternative savings rather than by closing a centre.
Graham Hodkinson said there would be a three-month consultation, in which they would listen to ideas. If it could be shown that alternative savings could be delivered then they had a duty to listen to that. He was happy for Chris Begya and her team to support alternative approaches if it delivered efficiency, however he hadn’t had many direct correspondences (although some had come via councillors). He was keen to ensure information was put out from the centre. Chris Begya said she had written to a couple of people about alternative ideas and was happy to talk and listen.
The member of the public said they had written to Chris and Cllr Phil Davies and asked for a meeting with Cllr Phil Davies and Graham Burgess, but hadn’t written to Graham Hodkinson. A meeting had happened with Chris Begya and a response had been received back, however they challenged everything Graham Hodkinson said. The threat of taking away the day centre was causing anxiety and how could they look forward to the future when next year there could be further cuts?
Graham Hodkinson said they were willing to listen and after the Council decision they had a duty to listen, he said they were happy to offer accountancy support if carers were keen to set out their ideas.
A member of the public said the day centre didn’t require closing and that people should be dealt with as human beings. They said the transport system was ridiculous and that closing a centre would condemn people onto buses to go to different centres which would cause stress for the parents. He expressed the opinion that any parents who had a person with learning disabilities was more expert than he was and that they should be treated as human beings.
Graham Hodkinson said that everybody was entitled to an individual needs assessment, but it was unfortunate that they had to set a legal budget. He said they had done mapping of where people lived compared to which centre they went to and there was no correlation, he agreed the transport was “not quite right” and that they could improve the transport arrangements.
A member of the public said that the depth of feeling had boosted the attendance figures and said they were baffled by some figures that stated that for ninety-one people at Moreton Day Centre there may not be sufficient capacity in the short-term to relocate them and that the projected savings were based on the assumption that all the staff would leave.
Graham Hodkinson said he had no idea what they were referring to. The member of the public said it was part of the staff consultation in December 2012. Chris Begya said the figures were for across the Borough. The member of the public disagreed and said that there had been three options on the sheet. Chris Begya said that it couldn’t be looked at in abstract as there were different figures depending on the options.
The member of public said the option to close Eastham would lead to thirty-six people being relocated and there may not be sufficient capacity, that the option to close Heswall would lead to spending more money expanding Pensby Wood and that there were contradictions in it. Chris Begya responded by saying they were all options and possibilities that could be explored as part of the consultation.
The member of the public said it was bizarre that they’d shut one and make another bigger. Chris Begya said it was part of a staff consultation and when she did the presentation she had explained what she meant.
A member of the public asked where people were going to go? Graham Hodkinson responded by saying that there was the potential for 105 additional half day sessions. He didn’t recognise the consultation figures. Chris Begya pointed out that this was without additional staff put in. A member of public said the figures were contradictory, Mr. Hodkinson responded by saying that if they were different he wanted to understand why.
A member of the public said that 133 people used Moreton, but a number of people were in the community, on Dale Farm, working in the Coop, delivering the Wirral News, but when officers rang up and asked how many people were in the centre they were told 91, they felt because people were in the community they were not counted which led to a big discrepancy.
Graham Hodkinson said that Dale Farm was a service in its own right, but they registered people who attended and didn’t knock off people doing community activity. The member of the public said that managers have said officers phone up asking for figures of how many are in the centre. Chris Begya said they needed to know how many are in the centre and where they were as people paying needed to be charged but that the people in the community did get captured.
The member of public said the ones in the community didn’t mean they were supported by staff as her daughter travelled with two other service users to a church run organisation.
A member of the public asked which way councillors would be voting at the Council meeting on 5th March?
Cllr Blakeley said he would vote against the closure of any large day centres.
Cllr Williams said the same thing.
Cllr Ian Lewis said he would vote not to close any day centres.
Cllr Anita Leech said they had not gone into full discussion, but they were looking at all aspects including the day centres, so she couldn’t give a proper answer.
Cllr Blakeley asked if she was supporting the Labour Cabinet proposals [to close a large day centre]?
Cllr Anita Leech said she wouldn’t like to answer at this point.
A member of the public said that if the day centre was closed it would take away her daughter’s independence as currently she travels there independently. Graham Hodkinson said that currently people travel all over the Borough and referred to some detailed work with Merseytravel. Some more comments were made on travelling.
Cllr Blakeley responded that people travelling independently was their choice, but if you close the centre you remove that choice.
A member of the public said the savings were £2 million over 3 years (approximately £700,000/year), but that extra money would be required in additional transport costs, the consultation and employing transport trainers, so she couldn’t see it saving more than £400,000/year. Therefore she felt the saving was negligible and not worth doing. If they were reducing the staffing, they needed to develop people and maximise their independence skills.
Another member of the public said her sister had profound learning disabilities and went to Moreton Day Centre, she said service users were crying as they don’t know what’s going to happen, where they’d go or what would happen to their friends and that they can’t cope with change.
Graham Hodkinson said in terms of people coping with change, he had spent most of his career closing down services, the first was long stay hospitals, then large residential homes, however he felt that people moved out of institutions “really loved it”. He did say that people on the autistic spectrum had difficulties with change and it had to be well-managed but that others “enjoy it like you and I do”.
A member of the public asked where the choices are, when people would be assessed and what if they say they don’t want to go. She said her son was very upset and he’d gone to the day centre for thirty-three years.
Graham Hodkinson said that he recognised in some cases it was a long period of time, but that they will offer people a service that meets their needs, but that there may well be change.
A member of the public said they had heard a lot of figures, but after next Tuesday how long would it be before they knew which day centre would close? Mr. Hodkinson said that subject to the decision being made, there would be a three-month consultation about closing centre X, meetings would be arranged with carers and this would be done within a week or two of the decision being made.
A member of the public asked where Mr. Hodkinson had got the information from he quoted as fact that people with learning difficulties love change? She said that they do not love change and suffer very badly if there are changes.
Graham Hodkinson said he could provide individual user comments and stories, such as a person who’d been in a residential home for twenty years and had chosen her shopping for the first time in her life.
A member of the public said that they were all scared of change, whether they had a learning disability or not and that change was very uncomfortable. Another member of the public said that change should be through choice and not forced upon people.
A member of the public said that the lady [referred to by Mr. Hodkinson] wrote to him, but their children couldn’t speak. Mr. Hodkinson said she was supported to write it, the member of the public said that if that was the case then it wasn’t her thoughts.
A member of the public said that a family had moved house half a mile and had a son with severe learning disabilities and it had taken months to calm him down. He said he had a daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome and trying to change anything was impossible and until you lived with people 24/7 you didn’t know.
Graham Hodkinson said that he had said people with autistic spectrum disorders which includes Asperger’s.