“Now I take Megan to a church hall, where for £5 we can sit from 11 to 3. For lunch she gets a sliced ham and white bread sandwich and a chocolate biscuit but at least its warm and dry. There’s pens and colouring books to keep her occupied.” That’s the words of one Glasgow mother describing the support she had for her daughter after her day centre for people with learning disabilities was closed down.
It’s the type of story that’s not often heard. Instead we hear how “modernisation” will close day centres but replace them with a better service.
Over the next few months, Glasgow City Council is going to close three of its seven centres, Hinshaw Street, Berryknowes and Summerston, for people with learning disabilities with 320 people being moved on to “alternative day services”.
One of the arguments used to justify closure is that current users have never been properly assessed. The council has said “If [attendees at day services] needs were being assessed for the first time today then in most cases service users would not be assessed as needing full time day centre services.”
But few users have been through the council’s personalisation assessment within the last 18 months, so its not clear what actual evidence the council have that this is true.
Instead many assume that this is a money driven decision. As we have argued elsewhere, the Council’s Resource Allocation System is so distorted that very few people can expect to receive a budget that is sufficient to buy their existing services, no matter what their level of need is.
Day centres remain popular for many people with learning disabilities with a range of needs. Existing day services are quite different from the traditional “isolated island” model.
•Many are now integrated with community leisure facilities.
•Others are linked to work opportunities where people enjoy a range of activities personalised to their needs and wishes.
•Other day centres don’t draw a line between community and centre activities but see them as linked in one continuum of engagement.
Part of the reason that people still value day centres is the sense of community, friendship and purpose that they gain.
Day centres have provided a base from which people can reach out. They help people with learning disabilities gain friends and the support of peers that they cannot always get in the family home.
More work needs to be done by Glasgow on how Alternative Day Opportunities are developing. Most such placements are for less than two days a week. It is not clear who inspects such services and whether these checks apply to all Alternative Day Opportunities. One day service user recently said the biggest problem with alternative day services was “Finding a dry, warm eating place at lunch, not just sitting in cars and shopping malls”.
Chanting “Modernisation Good, Current Services Bad” wouldn’t by acceptable on “Animal Farm”. It shouldn’t be acceptable in Scottish Social Work.
Self-directed support is supposed to extend choice for people. By closing down a valued service, choice is taken from people to access a service that they think is best. Personalisation can also be about choosing to retain an existing service. This is a legitimate choice and should be supported