People with learning disabilities who attend a day centre in Gloucestershire are celebrating after receiving a stay of execution from the local council, which agreed to pay their fees for another month after initially being told their new care contracts did not contain enough funding to attend.
The move followed the initiation of legal action by several of the families of the people affected by these plans. Eleven people with learning disabilities who attend the Dursley Training Unit (DTU) would have been unable to attend in 2012, according to the Friends of Dursley Training Unit, an organisation set up to fight the planned closure of the DTU. The organisation alleged that Gloucestershire County Council was to implement new care contracts that would have barred almost half of the attendees at the unit from going there after it re-opened in the New Year. Parents and carers of 11 DTU service users, who are resident at two supported living units in Dursley - Kelvyn House and an unnamed unit run by Affinity Trust - received notification from the operators that new contracts with the County Council will come into force on January 2, 2012, and within newly set personal budgets there was no funding to attend the centre.
Chris Pockett, spokesman for the Friends of Dursley Training Unit, said: "The decision by Gloucestershire County Council to cut funding and stop these disabled adults enjoying this much valued community-based day centre, outraged not only the families of those involved but the wider Gloucestershire community. Many of the adults have attended the DTU for in excess of 13 years, and some since the unit was first created almost 20 years ago. "Families of those involved had no choice other than to launch legal action, which they did reluctantly, but necessarily, to protect the rights of these adults, who are some of the most vulnerable and disabled in our society. The County Council will respond to the legal challenges by 18th January, but will in any case fund attendance, "without prejudice", until 31st January." The Council confirmed that it had received a letter from Friends of Dursley Training Unit and was considering the legal implications of the letter.
In a separate, earlier statement, Margaret Willcox, operations director: adults, at Gloucestershire County Council, countered the Friends of Dursley Training Unit's claims: "I would like to make it clear that Gloucestershire County Council is not stopping anyone from going to Dursley Training Unit," she said. "This letter has come from the providers of supported living, not from Gloucestershire County Council. "From January, we will pay providers to provide supported living to these users and this includes daytime activities. This isn't an issue specific to users of Dursley Training Unit, it affects everyone in supported living across the whole county. We understand that this letter has caused distress but we expected that both Kelvyn House and Affinity homes would have involved families in the consultation on this issue."
Meanwhile, the DTU is still under threat of closure. The Council has delayed its decision over whether to close it until spring 2012, so that it can be considered as part of the whole budget setting process for 2012/13, according to Tina Reid, Gloucestershire County Council's head of care provision. Pockett believes that, with further staffing changes, the council will only save £30,000 per annum by closing the DTU "giving no justification for closure."