A MOTHER is fighting for all the carers and their families against the proposed closure of day centres.

Rachael Scott-Hunter, 70, and her husband Ian, 73, have cared for their severely-disabled daughter Alexandra for the last 44 years.

They are now terrified their lifeline, the Kidlington Day Centre, will be shut under a restructure of daytime support services, which include day centres and health and wellbeing centres, by the county council.

Since the age of 19 their daughter has spent most weekdays at the centre in Oxford Road, giving the couple some respite.

But as previously reported in the Oxford Mail, the council is consulting on changes to the service after being forced to make savings.

One option would see the current 22 buildings reduced to eight bases across the county, saving £2.4m. The other would see a 'flexible service' provided to four geographical areas across Oxfordshire. It would use various community facilities as bases where needed, such as libraries, leisure centres and allotments and there would also be four small, building bases in Oxford, Banbury, Didcot and Witney, which would save £3.4m. 

But the council reiterated yesterday that everyone who currently receives help from adult social services 'would continue to receive support under either proposed change'.

Mrs Scott-Hunter, who lives in Chesterton, said neither option would be appropriate for her daughter.

The counsellor said: "There are totally dedicated and extremely experienced staff who have known and understood our daughter’s very complex needs over many years.

“They do not just provide for her but essential respite care for my husband and I."

The centre offers music therapy, sensory sessions and other activities but Mrs Scott-Hunter said if it shuts it would mean her daughter would have to go to a new building that would also provide services for  a base which would also provide services for people with physical disabilities and dementia.

She said she understands the council has to make savings but that it needed to go back to the drawing board to consider the options.

She added “To be moved away from a centre and the people she finally trusts and we have learned to trust will have a catastrophic impact on our daughter.

“I am going to speak for her and all those other voiceless people that will be affected by these changes.”

She has now started a petition, signed by almost 200 people, for the public to help stop the closures.

Currently around 500 people use the health and wellbeing centres centres and more than 300 people use the learning disability daytime support services.

MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith said: “The county council faces unenviable choices as a result of government cuts, but changes in these support services are particularly disruptive for users with learning difficulties or dementia, and for their families. 

“It is crucial that the council really listens to their concerns and does everything it can to sustain effective provision for all those for whom daytime support is a lifeline.”

Recently members of Carers Voice discussed the impact the proposals would have on the 61,000 unpaid carers in Oxfordshire.

Dr Judith Wardle, who chaired the meeting and was a carer for her son Alan who died in 2003 at the age of 24, said: “They are bewildered and angry that they simply have not been given enough information to make a choice between the two options offered for a redesigned service.

“Without examples of how services might work for individuals, carers have no idea whether the options are feasible and whether budget figures are credible.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “We would like to reassure this family that anybody with an eligible assessed care need is guaranteed to continue to receive a service, whether or not that service is provided from the same building as currently.

“The vast majority of people with learning disability currently attending county council run day services have just such eligible assessed care needs.

“Those whose eligible needs include transport will continue to be supported to travel to get the services and support they need.”

The consultation closes on Tuesday, December 20 and a recommendation on the county council’s future funding of daytime support will be made by Cabinet in January 2017, for a final decision by the council in February 2017.

For more information visit: consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk and for Mrs Scott-Hunter’s petition visit: http://bit.ly/2htohg7

County council proposals:

-              The 22 building-based services – health and wellbeing centres, learning disability day-time support services, with two options:

o             A centre based service delivered from eight dedicated buildings, providing support and outreach work. The bases would provide multi-functional spaces for people

o             Mixed service provided to four geographical areas in: city, north, south and west. This would use community facilities such as libraries, leisure centres and allotments with four dedicated buildings in Oxford, Banbury, Witney and Didcot to ensure there are sufficient specialist facilities.

-              The council’s Dementia Support Service, which supports 120 people per week, will continue to be funded

-              The council’s Wellbeing and Employment Service ‘OxForward’ provides support to people over 18 with learning disabilities, autism and physical disabilities and the scheme, which supports 700 people will continue.

-              The council will replace annual funding for 47 community-based daytime support services with grant pots of £250,000 a year, which services bid for under two categories. The council would target the funding at services that would be unsustainable without it and those services wishing to innovate would be directed to the Innovation Fund and Sustainability Fund.

-              The council will continue to work with Age UK-provided Community Information Network service. This service would prioritise working with people affected by changes helping manage a personalised transition from current daytime support services for people who do not have eligible needs.

Council response:

Cabinet member for adult social care at Oxfordshire County Council Judith Heathcoat has spoken about the review of current services.

She said: “Daytime support helps many people stay connected to their friends and communities.

“We want to ensure these services can continue on a solid footing for the future.

“Through volunteers and community groups there is already a thriving daytime support network in Oxfordshire – three-quarters of these groups receive no council funding at all. I have listened to many people who use these services so I know how much this support means to them. I am confident that with our support these services will continue to flourish.

“We also want to help those who want to create new services. We hope to create more choice of day services from voluntary and private sector organisations. Advice, support and grants will all be available to make this happen.

“At the same time, the county council will guarantee a core service for people who have assessed eligible needs for social care support.

“Despite the need for financial savings we embark on this change with an ambition to create a resilient network of services that expands what is currently on offer in Oxfordshire.

“We look forward to hearing the views of local people having already had a lot of feedback from providers.

“Savings come from changing the way we deliver services. There’d be fewer council-run buildings and we’d save money on transport while providing a more flexible transport system delivered by support workers.

“We have created a separate innovation fund to help groups get started or expand their service. That will help the community sector to grow.”