The Grange Day Centre in Shrewsbury provides support and services to disabled people and is seen as a home from home by many users and their carers, who are offered some relief from their 24 hour care responsibilities when their wards are at the Grange.
Sadly it has been in the news in recent weeks because of the very real threat of closure of the Centre as part of Shropshire Council’s budget cuts. Members of Shropshire Disability Network had very real concerns about the haste and apparent lack of transparency in arriving at the decision to inform Grange users and staff about the decision to close the centre.
It was therefore decided that the SDN Steering Group would invite users, family carers and others from various professional bodies associated with the Grange, to get a better understanding of the needs of people who would shortly lose day centre facilities at the Grange, and to listen to the concerns of family carers.
One of the members of the SDN Steering Group, who is also involved as a pioneer for Personal Budgets, attended the meeting and shares her perception of what was discussed:
It was a very positive meeting, as Geoff – our Chairperson – stated “if we have greater understanding of the needs of people, then we hope to be in a better position to be able to help/support them”.
SDN’s understanding until the meeting on 6th January was that the Grange Centre would close by April 2011. We were informed that Shropshire Council have now received two reports – one from family carers and another from those using the Grange Day Centre facilities, and there may be a reprieve until December 2011 - but nothing is definite yet, as further meeting is being held shortly.
Everyone at the meeting had the opportunity to speak and despite the worries of people directly affected by the pending closure there were a lot of constructive comments. We heard that:
- there is a great fear that friendships made over many years may be lost as people might be split up
- some day centre users go to the gym at Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institute. Some Young Offenders come to the Grange to help with gardening. Relationships and understanding of the needs of the more vulnerable is enabled. This is another area which could be lost, which affects those in the wider community.
- several activities take place at the centre including games, computing, going out shopping etc, with carers. Meeting others is so important to these people and for family carers it can be their lifeline - knowing the cared for are being looked after, fed, kept safe, while they have a much-needed break. Some people need their own carer at the Grange when they attend, others don’t – it is all individually assessed.
- there were real concerns from carers regarding “long term advocacy” for the cared for, when the family carers are no longer around. You could sense people who have anything to do with the Grange see it as “home” and, like a larger family getting together to do things, enjoy the companionship of others and a place they want to be, but also a place where the individual needs are understood and advocated for.
- there is a “big fear” factor that always comes into play when major decisions are being made in peoples lives and they feel they have no control over the outcome
- not every user/carer has their Personal Budget sorted, so can’t make plans for the future. However, we heard this has taken longer than anticipated but we are assured that by 31st January 2011 everyone will know how much money they will get; this enables the next stages of support planning etc to take place.
My own view is that I feel as a pioneer for Personal Budgets, despite what has been aired in the local press, the pending closure of the Grange Centre has nothing to do with Personal Budgets. It is cuts that are causing this closure, not the move to Personal Budgets. Personal budgets were introduced in some counties 2 years ago and it is just unfortunate Government/Council Cuts have happened just after the introduction of Personal Budgets in Shropshire and led to this muddying of messages.
Users come from Shrewsbury, Market Drayton, Oswestry and the wider surrounding areas. We heard from a family that have already been looking for alternatives to the Grange for their son. They had visited various places but had been referred elsewhere. When going to the ‘referred’ place, they discovered that it was not appropriate or did not provide the service and they ended up going around in circles. Geoff, as Chairperson, pointed out “if this is happening Shropshire Disability Network needs to know”. Vulnerable people and those who care for them have enough to do just getting through each day without this added burden.
It was a good meeting with comments being passed by those attending:
“We have found out answers to things today we have not had before”
“I think this has been good that we have come together like this, I have learnt a lot”
Prior to closing the meeting, Geoff asked each individual person if they had anything else to say that had not been said. Much information was exchanged at this meeting and all were invited to become members of SDN and join us at our quarterly general meetings.
After the meeting The SDN steering group held a meeting to discuss what we had heard and to debate what we can do to support people – which will be made public at the appropriate time.
Thanks to SDN Steering Group member Ruby Hartshorn for providing this account of the meeting.
As a result of the meeting, SDN Chair Geoff Forgie agreed to write to Steven Chandler – Assistant Director of Social Care at Shropshire Council – to support the proposed deferral of the closure of the Grange until procedures are in place to support the resulting needs of all current users.
More time and care needs to be taken in establishing alternative sources of support and help for all these vulnerable people and it is not acceptable to ‘signpost’ them to other help without first confirming that there is help available from those sources, and capacity within those organisations to provide support to the standard required by the individuals concerned.
If you use the Grange, are a carer, or someone who has an interest in the provision of services offered by the Grange, please share your views with us. Just click on the comment box, below. We look forward to hearing from you.