CONTROVERSIAL plans to close 14 daytime support centres for the elderly and disabled could be pushed through within weeks.

The changes would see the number of centres funded by Oxfordshire County Council fall from 22 to eight, saving about £3.14m a year by 2019.

Cash-strapped bosses insist it will put the service on a 'solid footing', but there are concerns it could disrupt the lives of people with disabilities and make it harder for some elderly people to reach centres.

Rachael Scott-Hunter, from Chesterton, said council guarantees that services would continue in different buildings 'missed the point'.

She and husband Ian care for their wheelchair-bound daughter Alexandra, 44, who had a brain haemorrhage after being born and now suffers from a series of severe disabilities, including an inability to talk and partial sight.

They currently bring her to the Kidlington Day Centre but the changes would mean going to one in Bicester instead, where Alexandra could be separated from friends and staff she knows.

Mrs Scott-Hunter, 70, said: "We want to give our daughter the best possible life, but caring for her is already stressful and as you get older it takes its toll.

"Working with Alexandra is very specialised and it takes her months to become comfortable with the carers because she has severe anxiety problems.

"We are up two to four times every single night to help her and her time at the day centres gives us important respite.

"It is also so important to know we can leave her there and trust the staff.

"The county council talks about making these decisions but I don't think they understand the extra stress it will cause, or the knock-on effect it will have on carers.

"I know they have to save money but there must be a different way of doing this."

About 700 adults currently use the council's day centres, including those with disabilities, mental health problems, dementia and the frail elderly.

The council said it will continue to provide services for people with assessed needs and that self-funding users would pay the same rates as those it supports after the changes.

But it says it cannot afford to keep funding the current £9.3m service, which includes 22 centres.

Under the new plans, this would fall to £6.16m by 2019 and there would only be eight centres, in Abingdon, Banbury, Bicester, Didcot, Oxford, Wallingford, Witney and Wantage.

The new proposed budget is about £225,000 more than originally proposed, and includes extra grant funding for charities to bid for, with about £650,000 of 'transition funding' also set to be made available.

Judith Heathcoat, cabinet member for adult social care, 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 and we have listened carefully to what has been said in the consultation.

"We recognise that the period of change will be difficult and there will be support from experienced, skilled staff through that process.

"We are confident that the new services will provide tailored support to meet needs.”

The council said its consultation on the changes received more than 1,000 responses.

A spokesman said three quarters of voluntary sector daytime support services in Oxfordshire already received no grant funding.

The changes will be considered at a council cabinet meeting on January 24.