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Public Consultation Over Closure Of Newmarket Day Centre Launched After Concerns From Users

Public Law Experts Notified Suffolk County Council Of Challenge To Closure Of Newmarket Hub


A public consultation concerning the closure of the Newmarket Hub, a day centre operated by non-profit group Leading Lives, has been announced by Suffolk County Council after service users instructed public law experts to investigate how the original decision to close the facility was made.


Suffolk County Council, which funds the facility, claimed that due to changes in funding brought about by the closure of the Independent Living Fund it would no longer be able to keep operating the Newmarket Hub. Families were informed that the Hub had been earmarked for closure in March 2016 and in June 2016 the council confirmed that the Hub would be closed.


The council stated that the reason for this was because it would no longer be able to fund the service users’ existing 1:1 support, as well as funding attendance at the day centre. The council suggested that service users would need to either accept alternative care arrangements, or they would need to travel out of Newmarket to a day centre service in Mildenhall.


However Lynda Rudge, from Newmarket, whose son Jack uses the services at the day centre, instructed public law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the council’s decision to close the Newmarket Hub without a full consultation and without considering alternative options for the service to continue running.


Jack has severe learning difficulties, requires constant care and relies heavily on the day centre provision provided by Leading Lives at the Newmarket Hub. When attending the day centre, he has a 1:1 support worker, funded by his social care package, to ensure he is safe and well cared for.


Without the day centre, Lynda is concerned that Jack would not be able to access a suitable environment in which he can meet other young adults with learning difficulties. Lynda did not accept that the environment within the alternative Mildenhall Day Centre would be suitable to meet Jack’s needs.


Irwin Mitchell notified Suffolk County Council of their intention to challenge the proposed closure of the Newmarket Hub due to the lack of consultation. The local authority accepted that it should have consulted with service users before making a decision, and has now launched a full public consultation which will run until 9 September.


Caroline Barrett, a public law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Cambridge office, said:


Expert Opinion
“The proposed plans to close the Newmarket Hub obviously came as a significant shock for Lynda and Jack, as well as others who use the services provided by Leading Lives on a daily basis.

“The users of services should have been consulted before any decision to close the facility was made, and we are pleased the council has now launched a full public consultation after we informed them of our intention to challenge the closure.

“We will now be watching closely to ensure that they take into account the views of the local service users, including Lynda, as part of their full consultation.”
Caroline Barrett, Solicitor

Lynda Rudge said: “The day centre service provided by Leading Lives at the Newmarket Hub is absolutely crucial for Jack and others who regularly use the facility. As well as being much further away, the Mildenhall Hub is much busier and the environment would not be appropriate for somebody with Jack’s needs.


“If the Newmarket Hub closes, Jack will have very limited options and is likely to spend more time in the house and less time being able to access the community.


“We were devastated when we found out about the potential closure of the service and were concerned that the people using the service were not asked for our views. The council has said that the potential closure is because of the impact of the Independent Living Fund closing, but I do not accept that this should mean Jack’s quality of life should decrease.


“We’re now glad the council has announced a full public consultation on the decision to close the Hub and we hope plans will be put in place to ensure we continue to be able to access these services in Newmarket.”

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