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Our day centre is literally a lifeline. It’s being closed.

Location: UK » Wales » SY
Testimony relates to: The Grange Day Centre, SY1
Our day centre is literally a lifeline. It’s being closed.

The Grange Day Centre is a place where physically disabled adults between the age of 18 and 60 can learn vital life skills, socialise and get support with health needs such as strokes and epilepsy. It’s crucial for the service users and vital respite for their carers.

Service users access physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dedicated staff ensuring that they achieve progress against their needs assessment.

This in turn promotes users’ mobility, increases their sense of independence and enhances their well being.

It is the only day centre of its kind in Shropshire.

However it costs £200,000 per year, so in September 2010 Shropshire council decided to close it.

They have to cut £76,000,000 over the next four years.

It’s a bit confusing in terms of what is being cut in Shropshire because Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, said last November: “Social Care services should not have to suffer because of the cuts imposed by the comprehensive spending review.”

He added “Local authorities in the context of their council tax are not seeing a reduction in cash terms of the resources available to them.”

Eddie Davies is a member spokesperson for the Grange Action Group (GAG). He contacted me after they read about my Campaign and asked me to visit them.

The service users had been told in September 2010 that the consultation period on the Grange would be conducted fully and the decision would be announced on 4 January.

On the 13December 2010 the service users and their families/carers held a meeting to discuss the information requested by GAG from the council and to draft a report to council in anticipation of the decision. They invited the MP Daniel Kawzynski.

Halfway through the meeting Ruth Houghton from Shropshire Council arrived and announced that The Grange was to close on 31 March 2010. Service users staff and families were devastated. The meeting collapsed, as did the trust of the service users in Shropshire Council.

They asked me come back again as there were other service users keen to fight the closure who would be there. Eddie said he felt it needed to be in the press as that would raise awareness.

I was contacted by Kate Belgrave, a journalist who is touring the UK gathering the stories of the cuts and what they mean to people’s lives. She suggested coming over with photographer Charles Shearer.

I contacted the local paper about The Grange who said they’d like to send a photographer. When I arrived I was told I had to speak to the service users in the car park on the orders of the Assistant Director of Adult Social Care, Stephen Chandler. That’s where they had been told to have their photograph taken.

If Shropshire council were hoping not to appear monsters then compelling service users in wheelchairs into the snow to meet people was a peculiar way to go about it.

After a lengthy discussion with Stephen Chandler by phone he told me I could meet the service users inside and take photos.

Kate and Charles sat down with the service users and her blog and video represent clearly that the users of the Grange want it saved.

I held street stalls for a petition and got 1004 signatures from local people keen to save it. I contacted the council as more than 1000 signatures on a petition prompts a full council debate. I was told I hadn’t fulfilled their ten day notification period. Nine days weren’t enough. However I could submit it before the next full meeting at the end of February.

I decided to continue with the protest anyway and asked the service users if they wanted to participate and they were keen. They arranged transport from The Grange and I had to notify staff of the time. They told me that they had met with Stephen Chandler the previous day and he offered to delay the closure until December 2011. They felt this was a step forward and asked me to tell the press.

Sadly when I phoned to tell staff the time, they told me Stephen Chandler had told them not to communicate with me and when I asked to speak to Eddie I was told he was busy on an activity. If I wasn’t able to tell them the time of the protest the service users couldn’t attend.

I phoned the council and asked to be put through to the CEO’s office. They put me through to legal services. I asked why.

They informed  me that this was on the orders of the CEO’s office. Eventually his representative phoned me and I explained that this was a foolish approach by the Council as it was impeding the service users from exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest.

Their response was a phone call from Stephen Chandler. For 20 minutes he told me that I was “causing distress to vulnerable people”.

Thankfully the service users message me on Facebook or I might have believed him.

I wouldn’t want to be Stephen Chandler. These are tough decisions. Lives already difficult are being made worse in the name of “savings”. It may cost £200,000 but it’s worth, in human terms, is vast.

It’s literally a lifeline.

 

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