Changes to day and respite services for people with a learning disability

By Kate Baxter

23rd Feb 2023 | Readers Letters

By  Bob Gaiger

Exeter and District Mencap Society is extremely concerned that at the Devon County Council (DCC) full Council meeting held on Thursday 16th February 2023 the council approved the DCC budget for 2023/24 which included plans to reduce the level of day and respite care for learning disabled people in Devon.

The proposed plan is to close one of the respite units in Devon, either New Treetops in Exeter or Pine Park House in Honiton.

Between them the units have a total 12 beds, so even if they build two additional bedrooms in the unit remaining open they will end up with just eight beds, a reduction overall of four.

DCC also plan to reduce the day care centre at the Nichols Centre Exeter to 3 days a week down from 5 and replace the 2 days with alternative arrangements.

When approached, the private sector in Devon stated they have no vacancies for day care. DCC stated in their Budget documents: "The successful delivery of the budget will require a reduction both in the numbers of people receiving care and amount of care they receive."

Families with relatives with a learning disability rely on the day and respite centres offered by New Treetops, Pine Park House and the Nichols Centre. If there is a reduction in this level of support then many families will decide they cannot manage any more and will request residential placements for their loved ones which will add a considerable amount to DCC's spending.

Families whose relatives live at home cost far less than if they were in residential care. There is also a severe lack of residential beds in Devon and many adults are sent "out of county" miles away from their families. This is happening now. There is a waiting list for respite care in Devon, and Exeter and District Mencap Society members cannot understand the logic of such a proposal.

These proposed changes have not been discussed by DCC Cabinet or by the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, neither have they been part of a consultation or co-production with users of the services, their parents or carers. Staff jobs at the two respite centres may be "at risk" too. The changes, if they go ahead, will have a major detrimental impact on the lives of those affected - the learning disabled who are the most vulnerable in our society.

Yours Sincerely Bob Gaiger and Jean Waldron, Trustees Exeter and District Mencap Society.


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