Special meeting called to examine county care cuts decision

Springfield Day Centre in Bideford is among those destined to close. Springfield Day Centre in Bideford is among those destined to close.

Friday, June 20, 2014
5:10 PM

Worried relatives urged to lobby their councillor ahead of county hall summit.

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Lobby your councillor now, says Frank Biederman, independent Devon County Councillor for Fremington Rural.Lobby your councillor now, says Frank Biederman, independent Devon County Councillor for Fremington Rural.

RELATIVES are being urged to lobby their local county councillor this week ahead of a special meeting called to examine a decision to close council-run care homes and day care centres across Devon.

As widely expected, and reported in Wednesday’s Gazette, Liberal Democrat and non-aligned county councillors have ‘called in’ the Conservative-led cabinet’s decision.

It has now been confirmed that special meeting of the council’s own ‘People’s Scrutiny Committee’ will take place at County Hall in Exeter at 2pm on Thursday.

Frank Biederman, independent county councillor for Fremington Rural, told the Gazette that members of the public had been banned from speaking at the meeting and those wanting to have their say should ask their county councillor to do so on their behalf.

He said: “We had hoped the committee would agree to remove standing orders to allow worried friends and relatives to request to speak at the meeting.

“However, committee chairman Sara Randall Johnson has told us she is not prepared to do this, so I would urge people to lobby their own county councillor for support.

“If people are not able to go to the meeting to represent themselves, then it is imperative that they ask their local county councillor to put their point across on their behalf.”

On Monday, it was announced that Beech House in South Molton; Burrow House in Ilfracombe; Lydiate Lodge at Lynton; Fairlea in Northam; and Oakwell in Bickington are among the local care homes set to close, meaning residents will now have to seek similar care from the private sector.

County-wide, only two homes will remain, specialist dementia units in Torrington and Newton Abbot.

Of the 11 North Devon day centres marked for closure, five will go – Springfield and Quayside in Bideford; Beech House in South Molton; Burrow House in Ilfracombe; and a hub at the Plough in Torrington.

But Oakwell in Bickington, and Barnstaple-based Rosebank, Silverhill, Tarka and Greenfields will be retained as a new ‘integrated service’ at a site still to be decided.

The future of the Oasis day centre in Barnstaple is still unclear.

Mr Biederman added: “We are challenging the decision on the grounds that the evidence base the council has used is flawed.

“We don’t believe there is alternative or equivalent care elsewhere in the community.

“The decision has to be called in by three member of the scrutiny committee within five days and a special meeting will have to be arranged to enable us to ask the cabinet to look at this again.”

Unison has called the decision ‘shameful’, saying it would result in more than 1,000 job loses and leave more 400 vulnerable adults facing an uncertain future.

But councillor Stuart Barker, the council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said a phased closure of homes and day centres over the next 18 months was the ‘only way’ the authority could plug a £200million Government funding gap.

He said: “Nothing will happen immediately. This is a process that will take time and we will do this with great care and sensitivity.

“In taking the decisions I want to ensure that everyone who is entitled to have a service from us gets it, be it residential care or a day service, and that they will continue to receive a service that meets their needs.”

To find your local Devon County Councillor, click here.

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