Southampton City Council Had Originally Planned To Close The Kentish Road Respite Centre
Parents and carers in Southampton have welcomed a council decision that recommends Southampton City Council Cabinet rethinks plans to close one of the city’s respite care centres.
The council’s decision comes after a centre user, the mother of an adult daughter with learning disabilities, instructed specialist public law solicitors at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether there were grounds for a judicial review of the council’s decision making process to close the Kentish Road respite centre.
The mother, known only as AG for legal reasons, is a full-timer carer to her daughter, VM, 27, who has learning disabilities. She has regularly used the Kentish Road respite centre in Southampton, which provides respite services for adults with learning disabilities to prevent families reaching breaking point and enabling them to stay living together.
Following months of protests and a legal challenge by families, the council has taken the decision to rethink plans to close the centre. The decision was originally taken in an attempt to cut costs and would have seen the council save £300,000 a year, although campaigners have identified that the closure will cost more than it saves.
The Full Council approved a motion accepting the recommendations made by its Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which include a recommendation that a new decision is taken by the local authority’s Cabinet. The expected date for the Cabinet meeting is 17 October 2017.
With the closure of the centre scheduled for 31 October, questions are being asked about whether this will be postponed. Centre users are calling for no further steps to be taken in relation to closure of the centre.
Alice Cullingworth, a solicitor and the public law and human rights specialist at Irwin Mitchell representing VM, said:
Expert Opinion“We welcome the council’s decision to recommend a rethink on the Kentish Road respite centre closure plans.
“The centre offers critical support to not only those people with learning disabilities who use it but also their family. It enables the carers within the family to take a break from having to be the only source of care for their loved ones. Our clients had clear concerns that the council’s decision making process to date has been flawed, and we are delighted that the council has agreed to our clients’ request for the Cabinet to take a new decision.” Alice Cullingworth - Solicitor
Since the initial instruction by AG, another centre user, known as HS for legal reasons, has instructed Irwin Mitchell to act on his behalf. HS, 21, attends the respite centre and to date no suitable alternative respite provision has been identified to meet his needs should the Kentish Road respite centre be closed.
It is a similar situation for VM, whose draft assessment and care plan includes no analysis of the alternative options for respite for her, or how the alternatives will meet her needs.
Speaking on these developments, Alice added:
Expert Opinion“Situations like these faced by HS and VM highlight why it is so important that no further steps to close the service are taken before the Cabinet announces its new decision.
“Parents were told by the council that the centre will not be closed unless there is suitable alternative respite provision to meet the complex needs of their adult children. Sadly, we remain of the view that suitable alternative provision has not been identified for all centre users. If and when suitable alternative provision is identified, the law requires that there should be a carefully planned transition process for these service users, due to the complexity of their needs.” Alice Cullingworth - Solicitor
The council originally announced plans to close the centre, which offers planned and emergency respite for up to eight people at a time, in favour of what it described as a more ‘cost effective and personalised’ care service. It was reported that the closure would have put 11 jobs at risk.
AG, and other parents who use the respite centre, have expressed their delight at the council’s U-turn following their demonstrations and protests.
AG, who herself suffers with Crohn’s disease and cares for her elderly mother who has a blood condition as well as VM, said: “We are delighted that the council has listened to us, noted our concerns, and agreed to rethink the closure of the Kentish Road respite centre. None of us wanted to be left without adequate support and risk reaching a crisis point.
“The council’s original decision to close down the Kentish Road respite centre would have been a disastrous one for my family, and for many other families in the area like ours.
“Our children didn’t ask to be born with a disability and it makes me so sad that without full support my daughter’s disability hinders her living life to the full.
“That is why we decided to take the important step and instruct Irwin Mitchell. We are grateful for their legal work and support they have given us in our fight to keep the respite centre open.”