Families have criticised plans to close three adult day care centres in Tower Hamlets as the council battles to reduce a £5 million overspend on social care due to the coronavirus.
Facing closure next March are the Riverside Centre for elderly people on the Isle of Dogs, the Physical Disabilities Day Opportunities on Stepney Way, and Pritchard’s Road Day Centre for adults with mental health issues in Bethnal Green. All have been temporarily closed since the start of the pandemic.
Councillor Rachel Blake, Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing, told the council cabinet meeting last week: “While the proposal is to close buildings, the intent is to bring services back in a community hub setting.”
But residents at the meeting criticised the proposals, saying the day centres have been a “godsend” and a “lifeline” for them and their families and raised concerns about the quality of replacement services.
The council plans to adopt a more fluid service using community hubs as a base. This more personalised approach will include a mixture of telephone contact and home visits tailored to each individual.
A spokesperson for the council told ELL that they estimate a large budget shortfall this year. They said: “Part of this work [centre closures] takes into account the huge financial pressures facing the council, which have been worsened by the costs of responding to the pandemic.”
The closures are expected to generate savings of £1.02 million. There are plans for almost half to be reinvested back into the services by developing a day support community hub.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Rabina Khan objected to the closures. She said that the equality assessment for the potential closures represents a “disproportionately negative impact for people with ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act.” Khan added: “I don’t believe carers are being listened to properly.”
Leigh Riley, whose elderly father was an occupant of Riverside Centre before lockdown, said: “These places have done amazing work with my dad and to lose this place is going to be absolutely terrible. We desperately need these places and we need these workers who work so hard. We need Riverside to stay open.”
Zakir Hussein’s brother attended services for physical disabilities at one of the centres. Hussein said: “Although I’ve heard many things [saying] that this service will continue, I can see no alternative being suggested for anyone with physical disabilities… it’s an absolute myth.”
A spokesperson for the council told ELL that a full consultation on the proposal will be carried out with staff and people who receive support from the day centres from early November. Any future key decisions on this issue will be returned to Cabinet in early 2021.