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Decision over future of disabled employment services deferred

Senior councillors have been asked to defer a decision over whether to close several businesses which provide work opportunities for disabled adults across Wrexham.

It comes after a scrutiny committee raised concerns about the social impact of Wrexham Council’s proposals to close a cafe, appliance testing centre and laundry, which employ disabled community members in the county.

They have now asked the authority’s executive board to delay making a conclusion on the future of Le Cafe and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) in Rhosddu, and the Coverall laundry in Rhosymedre until details of the replacement service are known in full.

The plans also include finding an alternative organisation to provide the cafe service at Alyn Waters Country Park in Gwersyllt.

Currently 26 people are supported Monday to Friday at Le Cafe, Coverall and PAT, while 10 work at Alyn Waters Cafe.

Earlier this year Wrexham.com reported that there were fears a review into the day and work opportunities across the count borough could see the service being scrapped.

Currently Wrexham Council offer unpaid work opportunities to adults over the 18 with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairment and mental health needs in locations such as Alyn Waters Cafe.

However there are fears that those involved with the work opportunity scheme could be affected by a review taking place into the future of the service.

Despite receiving an average score from the public of -0.6, one of the lowest in the consultation process, a ‘You said We did’ document published by Wrexham Council states that a review is now underway.

Speaking earlier this week, Cllr Derek Wright, chair of the safeguarding, communities and wellbeing scrutiny committee, said he had been contacted by a number of disabled people employed by the council-run businesses, who felt their views had been ignored during a consultation exercise.

He said: “It appears that the service users and their carers feel as though the consultation wasn’t good enough and they’re afraid that they won’t listen to their concerns.

“What the committee were concerned with is that it isn’t a service that’s just finished, because these are very vulnerable people and it’s a major part of their life their day employment services.

“They’ve had their benefits cuts and this is one of the stable things in their life and that’s now changing as well.

“The committee were concerned that a suitable alternative service is there for them, so before any decision is made we want to see what the future service problem is going to be so a range can be offered rather than ‘like it or lump it’.”

In a report, the authority’s lead member for health and adult social care said the closures were needed to improve the service and deliver it in a cost effective way.

Cllr Joan Lowe said the council was hoping to make savings of £334,000 as part of the overall proposals, which will also examine the future of Cunliffe Enablement Centre and the Erlas Garden Project.

Under the plans Le Cafe would stop running as a business and become part of the Cunliffe Centre, PAT would close entirely and Coverall’s service would be reduced until new opportunities are found for those employed there.

Meanwhile, the alternative provider at Alyn Waters would still be expected to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities.

She said: “Formal consultation has been undertaken with individuals, their families, carers, staff and trade union representatives.

“Areas of concern expressed by those consulted with has focused on the impact of change, loss of continuity and staff who know how to support individuals and the inability to be able to identify any alternatives to the business projects so leaving individuals unsupported.

“The consultation feedback has not produced any compelling arguments or evidence that would change the proposal that this reshaping is the most appropriate way forward to modernise and expand services available for people with disabilities across Wrexham.

“There were understandable concerns and anxieties about any changes being made during the consultation.

“These concerns can be addressed through person centred planning and careful and sensitive transition.”

However, at Wednesday’s meeting, councillors said they wanted to see the full details of the replacement service and asked Cllr Lowe and the executive board to defer making a decision.

They also asked that disabled people and carers be involved in deciding the new model.

Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

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