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Parents Of Adults With Autism Celebrate Victory After Securing The Future Of Day Services

Two families threatened council with legal action after autism day centre was earmarked for closure


The mothers of two adults with autism have secured the future of day services in their area after threatening legal action against their local authority.

The families took a stand after Haringey Council decided to close the Roundway Day Centre in Tottenham in November 2015. Following the closure, it appeared there would be no specialist day services left in the borough for adults with autism and challenging behaviour.

Roundway currently supports 27 adults with autism, learning disabilities and complex needs, including conditions which can impact on their mental and physical health. Specially trained staff enable adults, some of whom require 2:1 care, to access activities in the community.

Parents opposing the closure argued that the day centre provided their children with their only friends outside their close family and without it they would lose their social circle.

The first claimant, known only as JA, has attended Roundway 5 days a week since 2013. She needs 2:1 care in the community because she is at risk of absconding. Her mother says: “JA benefits so much from attending Roundway. She looks forward to going every day as all her friends are there and the staff understand her.

She gets to go out into the community, for example on nature trials, and has fun with activities at the centre, such as music and gardening. Without this service, she would quickly become isolated and distressed. I simply don’t know how we could manage without it.”

The second claimant, known as MA, requires 1:1 care 24 hours a day. He has attended Roundway for five days a week since 2011. His mother says “Only the most experienced carers who understand autism are able to meet MA’s needs. At Roundway he has fun with staff that know and understand him, going out cycling and doing arts and crafts. Any change in MA’s routine is hard for him to cope with, so I was very concerned to hear that the only autism specialist day service in Haringey was going to close.”

After threatening to take their fight to the High Court, the families have now been given a list of 15 assurances by Haringey Council, including a promise that the day centre would not shut unless and until a new autism specialist service is created for them at another local day centre.

The council has also assured parents it intends to retain the specialist skills and knowledge of Roundway staff members and create personalised transition plans to help service users adjust to the new service.

Expert Opinion
“We are pleased that we achieved 15 key reassurances given by the council about the continued day services for vulnerable adults with autism in Haringey without the need for court proceedings.

“Given the little information our clients’ families were provided during the consultation process last year about the closure of Roundway Day Centre, they were seriously concerned that there would be no specialist autism services left in Haringey to meet their very complex needs.

“We now have reassurances by the council that the remodelled day services for disabled adults in the local area will include an autism specialist service, that will be safe and fit for purpose, and there will be no gap in provision.

“Families will now be watching closely as the new services are implemented and we will expect the Council to keep Roundway Day Centre open if information comes to light during the implementation process that means the reassurances made by the council cannot in fact be met under the new structure.”
Alice Cullingworth, Solicitor

Anna Nicholson, Area Policy and Participation Officer (South-East) at the National Autistic Society, said: "We are incredibly pleased that Haringey Council listened to families’ concerns and recognised the need for a specialist autism service in the borough, based at the Roundway day service. The efforts of the two families working with Irwin Mitchell undoubtedly played a major part in reversing the council’s original plan to close the service.

"The National Autistic Society was deeply concerned when the council first announced plans to close the Roundway and worked closely with families to campaign against the closures. Irwin Mitchell’s support for two local families to mount potential legal challenges successfully highlighted the often complex needs of the autistic adults and others attending the service. It contributed significantly to the campaign’s success, including the council’s 15 assurances that they will provide a suitable service in the future. We will continue to work closely with local families and the council to ensure that the council’s assurances are met.

“Our charity is incredibly grateful to Irwin Mitchell for their work on this and previous campaigns, which have helped ensure that autistic people and their families get the support they need. We look forward to continuing our productive partnership with them in the future.”

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