Tories Deny Freedom of Choice over Day Centre Closures

The Conservative administration in Hillingdon claim that they “put residents first in everything that they do”, however their actions and their policies do not seem to be in tune with that mantra. A prime example of this is their decision to close Phoenix, Parkview and Woodside day centres.

In 2010 a package of social services savings was put forward and described as,

A modern approach to enable choice to change delivery from a traditional approach, to supporting people to access more community services.”

When my colleague, Cllr John Major, (Shadow Cabinet member for Social Services Health & Housing) sought clarification on this, it was confirmed that this was connected in some way to the possibility of the closure of day centres, but at that stage it was all very vague apart from the fact that this would lead to financial savings for the Council.

At the Council’s budget meeting in February this year it was clear that the so-called “Modern Approach” was indeed the closure of the day centres. Far from being a modern approach that puts residents first, this move is driven by the financial savings that will be achieved. Labour’s proposed amendments to the 2012 budget were financially neutral and included the retention of Woodside day centre but this was rejected by the Conservatives.

The families of the disabled people who will lose the option to choose the services of the three day centres are campaigning against the Council’s decision to close them. The council propose to replace the three day centres with a single centre for the whole borough. This proposal halves the number of places available, with the current 140 places across the three centres being reduced to 70 places at the single centre.

On 15th May 2012 “London Tonight” the ITV1 regional news programme reported on the campaign against the closure of the day centres and some of the families were interviewed about their concerns and highlighted some of the reasons why the tailored services and support of the day centres are so vital to the wellbeing of their family members, and how other facilities within the community are not at all suitable for people with severe disabilities.

In their statement to ITV1 “London Tonight” the Council said

The proposed changes will enable service users to have more choice and independence through offering care and support tailored to their needs”.

Hillingdon’s Labour group fundamentally disagrees with the closure of day care centres because we recognise that people with serious disabilities now have personal budgets so that they and their carers can choose what services they wish purchase to meet their specific needs. We therefore find it a bizarre move for the council to stifle this choice by closing the day centres which already provide the tailored support that many people with severe disabilities and their carers wish to purchase.

The cost of keeping these day centres open could be afforded if the political will was there to do so, as we demonstrated with our proposed amendments to the council’s budget. We believe that the Tory policy of day centre closures is actually a regressive approach, rather than a modern one, that reduces choice, removes vital services and puts financial savings before the needs of residents, therefore I would call on the Leader of the council and his cabinet to retain the Woodside centre, as a start, and then reconsider their decision, and their approach to the modernisation of these services.

Cllr Peter Curling
Leader of The Labour Group
London Borough of Hillingdon