A REVIEW has found adults with learning disabilities should have use of a building – after a council apologised for closing a day centre without consultation.
People with learning disabilities in Monmouthshire and their families had complained of feeling isolated and cut off from their friends since the day centre they had used closed at the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
In November last year Monmouthshire County Council’s Labour cabinet announced its intention to permanently close the Tudor Street day centre, in Abergavenny, which had been the local base for its My Day, My Life support service for adults with learning disabilities.
It said numbers using it had dropped, since before the pandemic, and it intended to sell the site for affordable housing before tougher planning rules that could limit its redevelopment potential come into force this June.
That prompted a protest outside the centre and a public backlash, which eventually led to council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby issuing an apology to service users at a full council meeting in January where it was also confirmed no decision on the future of the centre would be taken until after a review of the My Day, My Life service had reported.
The report by independent consultants Practice Solutions has now been published and it has made 10 recommendations to the council which includes: “The service should have safe and accessible buildings.”
No specific mention is made of the Tudor Street centre in the recommendation which highlights how “everyone” spoken to as part of the review, which included service users, their families and council staff, had stated those being supported need “to have available to them safe and accessible buildings.”
The report said “many potential buildings were identified” and there were differing views over a single “fixed building” or whether rooms in different buildings should be used throughout the week.
As well as the Tudor Centre the service had, before March 2020, used the Melville Theatre in Abergavenny and the council’s Monmouth and Monnowvale hubs.
The recommendation also said the council should “seek also to increase the number of public buildings and changing places that are appropriate for individuals who have physical health needs, so that anyone with a physical disability feels able to spend more time out in their communities.”
The report had identified concerns from families and staff at a lack of facilities, such as changing spaces which are disabled toilets with extra space, which have limited people’s ability to get out and about and led to calls for the service having a base which can meet the additional needs such as blending food of those being supported.
The council had commissioned a review of the whole My Day, My Life service, which operates in Abergavenny and Monmouth, with separate arrangements in place for the south of the county, in September last year.
The council said it had moved away from “outdated” day centre provision to more individual focused support, but the review found shortcomings in the service and how it had operated since My Day, My Life was introduced in 2014.
At that time the need for a base or hub within the community was recognised but those hadn’t reopened since the Covid lockdowns and there are now fewer actitivies available and some said all they were offered was “a walk around the park”.
The report found: “Many parents felt that activities have been less meaningful since the end of the pandemic, with limited variety available. Hours of support are much shorter since one to one support replaced the day centre model of service.”
The report has also recommended working with service users, families and staff to “restore and develop” the positive aspects of the service and it should return to the principle of a person-centred approach intended in 2014.
It’s also recommended a full-time, dedicated activities coordinator is appointed, with the review having highlighted a lack of awareness of activities people could take part in, problems accessing activities including cost and affordability due to the cost-of-living crisis, and whether staff are able to support some activities such as swimming or trampolining.
Activities could include finding paid work, volunteering, social events, sports, entertainment and learning new skills to be as independent as possible.
New working hours will also be needed if the service is to be available at evenings and weekends rather than traditional 9am-5pm daytime hours and the 17, mostly part-time staff should be consulted on changes to working hours and conditions with the council also told to provide better leadership and support for staff.
Record-keeping must also be improved so staff are aware of individual needs and health conditions, including allergies. The report said this must be addressed urgently, noting staff may be expected to take someone out for a meal without knowing about “a life-threatening food allergy”.
The council has also been told to “meaningfully involve” those being supported, and their families, to co-design the new service, including young people who may use it in the future, and work across the local authority to “put in place a consistent service offer across the county”.
The council should also consider how its different services for those with disabilities work together and the possibility My Day, My Life should be combined with its Individual Support Service. How support is offered to people of different ages and how it can increase people’s options of events, actitivities and support they can attend which wouldn’t necessarily result in any increased cost, should also be considered.
Increased information about services available should also be provided as people said they were unaware of what support is available.
The council is currently asking anyone with an interest to complete an online questionnaire by April 28 as it considers the report’s recommendations and develops a plan for the My Day, My Life service.