Residents Must ‘Make Themselves Heard’ In Council’s Consultation Over Adult Social Care

Irwin Mitchell Call Council’s Decision ‘A Sensible And Community Focused Step Forward’


By Ashlea McConnell

Manchester based campaigners concerned about changes to day services for disabled people in the region have today urged residents to ‘make themselves heard’ after the Council agreed to simplify its consultation process and extend its deadline.

In February this year Manchester City Council contacted 350 people who rely on institutions such as Oakwood, based in Northenden, with plans to reduce the overall number of day care centres in Manchester from seven to three, as well as limiting eligible users.

But, following concerns about the speed at which the consultation was carried out as well as the amount, and the complexity of the information available to residents, the Council has now agreed to extend its deadline and simplify the information available to the service users – giving residents the tools they need to fight the proposals.

Public Law experts from Irwin Mitchell representing the family of one disabled resident concerned about his future called the Council’s decision ‘a sensible and community focused step forward’. 

In a letter to the Council’s legal team earlier this month Mathieu Culverhouse from the firm’s Manchester office said the consultation had:
• failed to provide adequate timescales for residents to respond to the consultation
• failed to provide sufficient reasons for the proposals
• failed to use appropriate language to explain the proposals for the intended audience

In the Council’s response they agreed to extend the consultation period, provide an ‘easy read’ version of the consultation questionnaire as well as additional support for residents who require it.

The consultation to determine whether day care centres should target resources to people with greater care needs and should be reduced from seven to three will now close on June 21st.

Mathieu Culverhouse from Irwin Mitchell said: “The Council’s decision is a very sensible and community focused step forward and it has been welcomed by campaigners and residents alike who are all extremely concerned about the proposed changes to the day care services available to some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

“However, it is important to stress that at this time the decision whether to cut local services has simply been put on hold giving local residents the opportunity to respond to the proposals and have their voices heard.

“We are concerned that people might not be aware of the extension to the deadline or that an ‘easy read’ version of the consultation is now available.  It is therefore vital that those who are likely to be affected ask for copies of the ‘easy read’ document and respond to it to make themselves heard in a bid to ensure the Council have as much information as possible before the decision is made.”

Margaret Donald, 65, from Chorlton, Manchester, contacted Irwin Mitchell in February this year after receiving a letter from the Council regarding the potential closure of the day care centre Oakwood, which her son Mark, 43, attends five days a week.

She said: “Mark has autism and a learning disability which means he needs constant care and supervision. He has been attending Oakwood now five days a week for 14 years and he loves going there. He’s familiar with all the staff and going to Oakwood is well established in his daily routine; he reacts very badly to change so I was very worried when I heard about these proposals.

“Without their support we as a family would find it impossible to cope with the enormous challenge of having our son, whom we love very dearly, at home all day every day. Like all parents with grown-up children that have disabilities, we only want to make sure that our son is well cared for in the future when we are no longer around to care for him. Oakwood has formed such a fundamental part of our son’s life and care that it would be absolutely devastating if it were no longer available to him. 

“When the letter came through I felt under real pressure to respond quickly to the consultation which was due to close in just 7 days,  but when we went to read all of the information about what the Council planned on doing it just wasn’t clear at all. It was very intimidating.

“We are delighted that they have now extended the deadline and agreed to simplify all of the information to make it easier for those who need day care services to understand what the changes are that they are proposing – but now it is down to us.

“It is so important that everyone who is going to be affected by any changes make their voices heard so that we can keep these services going for the people like my son who desperately need them.”

Kate Maggs from Manchester Mencap said: “Manchester Mencap would strongly encourage anyone affected by potential day centre closures in Manchester to take part in the revised consultation process.

“It is encouraging that Manchester city council has agreed to give people more time to make their views known on the proposed changes to day services in Manchester, and to make sure there is accessible information for people with a learning disability.

“It is really important that anyone who might be affected by these changes responds to the consultation, so the council knows what people think about the services they get now and how they would feel if that service was closed or changed.

“If you or someone you care for has a learning disability and you want to know more about what the council is proposing to do, Manchester Mencap can help.

“Manchester Mencap strongly believes that everyone has the right to a voice and to be heard. It is very important that everyone's views, opinions and concerns are heard. Our free independent advocacy service can support you with this process.”

The proposals and consultation document can be obtained from the managers of the day centres affected and service users and their families are invited to submit their responses by 21 June 2013.

The day care centres involved in the consultation include:

• Eric Hobin
• Hall Lane (Wythenshawe)
• Heathfield
• Minehead
• Northfield (Abraham Moss)
• Oakwood
• Openshaw

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s public law work