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Services for most vulnerable could be axed due to £30.8m hole
PARENTS have pleaded with council bosses in Southampton not to cut their children’s “lifeline”.
Day services for people with learning disabilities are under threat as Labour city council chiefs put forward their latest round of proposed cuts.
Now campaigners for those who use the services are calling for an immediate rethink and say it will have a major inpact on some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
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As previously reported, cash-strapped civic chiefs have to find £30.8m in savings for 2015/16 alone.
And while Labour council chiefs have found £4.5m in one-off pots of money to help plug the gap, cherished services across the city are now facing the axe.
They have put forward a £7.7m “mini-budget” of proposals, which could be given the green light in September, and could see almost 200 jobs axed and the Woodside Lodge care home for elderly people with dementia closed.
Among the proposals are cutting day services for adults with learning disabilities, which are run in community centres in St Denys, Woolston and Freeman-tle and other locations across the city, which would save £700,000 a year.
Activities such as cookery, dance, art and walking and workshops on self-reliance and personal presentation are offered at the sessions, which can be for up to 30 people at a time.
And the council-run centre at Kentish Road, which allows carers respite and emergency facilities if they are unable to look after loved ones, could also close.
Lynette Hall’s daughter, 35-year-old Jennie, attends sessions four days a week, and enjoys activities such as artwork and dancing.
The 60-year-old from Sholing has pleaded with council bosses to change their minds on the proposals to axe day services.
She said: “The service is important to Jennie.
“She doesn’t like change and it won’t be the people who decide the changes who will feel the fallout if it closes – it will be me who she will blame.”
Lynette and Jennie have already been hit by recent council cuts, when they were among 91 families to see rent allowance payments go up as part of the 2012/13 budget.
She added: “It’s difficult to deal with at times, because obviously carers are under pressure daily and that pressure can increase with circumstances like this.”
Alan Sharpen’s 43-year-old son Geoffrey attends day service sessions five days a week.
The 74-year-old from Bassett said: “It’s very important for him to do the sessions, they get him out of the house and he likes to go. He meets other people and it also gives myself and my wife respite.
“It would be difficult if the service is taken away.”
Alex Iles, chief cxecutive of charity Southampton Mencap, said: “It’s disappointing that vulnerable people will be affected, and it will impact on their carers’ ability to keep caring.
“Services such as these are vital to a large majority of people who use day services – continuity, familiarity and a building-based service are all crucial elements which contribute to the quality of their lives.”
Labour council leader Simon Letts said: “We have spoken to other councils which have made this move, and we have been told the outcome is quite good for the clients that are affected as they have more choice.
“We will do our best to work with people to let them know what their choices might be.”
Even if council chiefs approve the “mini-budget”, another £17.3m in savings still needs to be found by November, when the full budget proposals for 2015/16 will be published.