THE parents and carers of disabled adults affected by Hillingdon Council’s decision to close three day centres have begun a legal challenge in the High Court.
Several families have claimed that a decision made in January to close the centres and replace them with supported housing units and a resource centre was unlawful and should be reversed.
Woodside Day Centre, in Hayes, Phoenix Day Centre, in South Ruislip, and Parkview Day Centre, in West Drayton, are all due to be closed in 2013. In their place, a new centre is to be opened in Queen’s Walk, South Ruislip.
But lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have now filed papers seeking a judicial review to stop the closures.
The families of service users claim the council’s public consultation last autumn did not provide enough information to users, families or the councillors who later voted on the proposal.
One day centre user who will be affected is 47-year-old Paula Leonard, who has Down’s syndrome. She needs round-the-clock supervision and has attended Woodside Day Care Centre five days a week for 15 years.
Her mother, June Leonard, said: “The way the whole process was carried out was just shocking and we don’t know why or how these decisions were made because they clearly haven’t been listening to the people who use the centres.”
Solicitor Alex Rook said: “The plans to close these centres will have a massive impact on the attendees and their families. The proposals will halve the number of places from 140 to 70, in one centre, to cover the whole of Hillingdon.
“None of the people who currently uses the services knows if they will be able to get a place at the proposed new site. Many of the disabled adults affected are extremely vulnerable people who demonstrate challenging behaviour when a change occurs in their routine, including self-harming.
“Our clients consider that the consultations on the closures were inadequate. The information provided was missing several key details about what it meant for them and what alternative services might be available, and our clients remain in the dark.
“There was strong opposition to these cuts from many people who use the services but their views, we believe, were not correctly sought or captured.
“These are the very people who should have been helping to make the decision, and our clients are unanimously of the opinion that the consultation was little more than a tick-box exercise.
“Ultimately, our clients believe councillors who had to vote on this issue were simply not given enough information about the impact of the closures, and that had they been, this decision would not have been taken.”
Linda Sanders, the council’s director of social care, said: “The proposed changes will enable service users to have more choice and independence through offering care and support tailored to their needs. Families and carers will be fully involved in the proposals.
“The council carried out a full consultation over two months, involving a range of meetings with people using services and their families. People were also invited to have their say on the council’s website or by calling us directly.
“We will continue to support service users and their family carers throughout this process.”
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