Protest called at plans to close Brighton day centre and outsource learning disabilities accommodation
An emergency protest has been called tomorrow against last minute plans to close a Brighton day centre and outsource accommodation for people with learning disabilities.
The plans are being discussed at a special meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy and resources committee tomorrow evening at Portslade Town Hall from 6pm.
The extra meeting has been called as the council moves to plug a huge budget gap caused by a steep drop in its Government grant, which will force them to make £100m in cuts over the next four years.
But councillors look set to be greeted by scores of protesters, who are being asked to assemble outside the hall at 5pm.
Andy Richards, chair of Brighton and Hove Unison, said: “The city council is trying to sneak through proposals to close or effectively privatise vital services for adults at a ‘special’ Policy and Resources Committee meeting on Wednesday evening. The unions have been given three working days’ notice of these proposals.
“These proposals directly affect service users and their families and potentially the jobs of hundreds of Unison members.”
The committee will consider two reports from Denise D’Souza, the council’s executive director of adults’ services, who says the current budget hole is caused in part by the failure to make enough savings in previous years, as well as looming future cuts.
She is asking that three-month consultations on both closing the Tower House day centre and outsourcing learning disabilities are started immediately so a full financial year of savings can be made in 2016/17.
Services at Tower House, she says, cost almost four times as much as similar services in the voluntary sector, at £99 a day compared to £25.50, adding up to £299,000 a year.
The alternatives are to either give users a personal budget to spend on other activities, or move to another, cheaper day service. The day centre is currently used by 92 people, of whom 55 visit once a week, 29 twice a week and eight people three times a week. Attendance is declining and is currently at about 70% capacity.
The report says if the current service closes then there may be opportunities to use the Grade II listed Edwardian building, which the council leases on a peppercorn rent, to develop alternative community based activities.
At £5.4m a year, the learning disabilities accommodation service is also expensive compared to the independent sector and other local authorities, and has already not been able to make savings of £580,000.
Ms D’Souza’s report says: “Whilst the accommodation services remain within the council, this service will continue to provide poor value for money.” She instead proposes the service, which employs 145 people, should be procured from the independent sector by the council.
It currently consists of four registered residential care homes accommodating 19 people, and eight supported living schemes accommodating 36 people. Specific details and locations are included in confidential papers.
Ms D’Souza suggests some users might be better off in extra care or supported housing, but: “where the needs of the existing service users can only be met in their existing accommodation, then one of the options that will be explored during the consultation period is for an independent provider to take over the care and support so that the service users remain living in their current home.”