Carers, clients, councillors and North Devon’s MP less than impressed after consultation events...
PLANS to cut day care services in North Devon have come under renewed fire following a series of consultation meetings.
The sessions for carers and stakeholders were closed to the press and public, as Devon County Council officers explained proposals to close the district’s 11 day centres for the elderly and disabled.
The council claims the same services can be commissioned via the private or voluntary sector, but many carers and clients have said the centres are a ‘lifeline’.
Consultation events were held at Petroc on Thursday, the Cedars, Bickington, on Friday and the Ilfracombe Centre on Monday.
A second proposal is also seeking to close the county run care homes in North Devon and this is running under a separate consultation.
Many of those who attended Friday’s event told the North Devon Gazette they feared it was already ‘a done deal’ and criticised the process.
Many of those who attended Friday’s event told the Gazette they feared it was already ‘a done deal’ and criticised the process, including North Devon MP Nick Harvey, who said: “They are just asking for trouble, I think, scaring everybody witless about closing services while having absolutely nothing firm about what might replace them.
“They talk rather vaguely about groups who might come in and run day care services and the buildings or premises they might use, but it’s all very, very speculative, there’s nothing firm about it.”
Fremington County Councillor Frank Biederman summed it up by saying: “This is the second time in three weeks that I am ashamed to be a councillor,” referring to an earlier decision to cut youth services.
“I’ve been to two consultations so far and we haven’t had any of the senior managers or councillors there who make the decisions – how on earth can they make decisions on peoples’ futures without hearing from them?”
Carer Jean Hill said no back up plan for alternative services had been suggested: “I don’t think it’s a proposal, I think it is something they intend to do – they are wasting a lot of public time and money holding a consultation process to which they don’t have any answers and I don’t think they are prepared to take our views into consideration.”
There was strong representation from carers whose relatives live at Oakwell nursing home and who use Oakwell Day Centre.
Dawn Benham, whose 83-year-old mother Brenda Smale is at the home, said the care there was second to none and she feared for her health if she had to be moved.
Pamela Jewitt, whose mother Queenie, 94, has been at Oakwell for three years, said the meetings were a benefit as they were able to get their views across, but questioned the council’s claim that people could use their Direct Payment to buy day care: “As far as people with dementia go, they haven’t got a choice,” she said.
“We didn’t really hear much from the providers and what we did hear didn’t seem appropriate for those with dementia.”
Rachel Holmes is a former manager of Oakwell, and said there was no alternative dementia care centre in Barnstaple, whether for day care or residential.
“I think it’s frightening the council is proposing alternatives which are not realistic or safe,” she said.
“Friday was meant to be for care providers from the private or voluntary sector, but when I looked around the room there was only a few there.
“All staff at Oakwell are trained and more importantly, they care. They give care and compassion and make sure people are fully engaged, whatever their dementia pathway.
“We are in the middle of a dementia crisis, this is not the time to be cutting services, we need more.”
* The consultation on Devon’s day centres closes on March 19 and the residential care consultation closes on March 26.
For more information visit www.toughchoices.co.uk