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Fears review into council’s work opportunities scheme will see disabled workers lose their jobs

Fears have been raised that a review into day and work opportunities for disabled adults across the county 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.

The document continues onto say that the review is initially focusing on three projects providing work opportunities for adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairment and mental health needs – including PAT Testing, Alyn Waters Café and Coverall laundry.

It adds: “This review will help determine if the Adult Social Care department should still be running these projects, whether these services are still required and identifying any other ways we can support people to access employment and volunteering opportunities.

“Alongside this work we will also review two other day services, the Erlas Garden Project and the Cunliffe day centre, to ensure we develop sustainable services fit for the future.

“As part of the review, we will also look at the possible relocation of staff currently based within our Greenacres site to reduce staff accommodation costs.”

It is estimated that cuts to the service could result in approximately £67,493 savings in 2018/19 and a further £402,000 in 2019/20.

The review has been met with concerns about the future of the work opportunities scheme, with families concerned that a decision on reducing the service has already been made.

There are also fears from parents, carers and families of the impact such cuts could have on
those who benefit from the work opportunities scheme.

Last year there was anger from councillors after proposals emerged in Wrexham Council’s Difficult Decisions consultation to cease a £4 bonus payment for those involved with the day and work opportunities.

Despite the payment being stopped in 2013 for anyone new to the service, the proposals would have affected 51 people in receipt of the payment.

At the time the key criticism was over the proposed cut, with one councillor describing them as ‘difficult to stomach’. There were also calls to introduce the £4 for all involved in the scheme from 2013 inwards, with questions over the equality of the current system.

Earlier this year it was announced that the plans to scrap the payments had been withdrawn.

 

Councillor Marc Jones said the Plaid group on Wrexham Council had met with some of the families of those potentially affected by these proposed cuts in work opportunities at Alyn Waters cafe and elsewhere.

He said: “After discussions with the families we’ve met with the head of Adult Social Care. She made it clear that there were plans to save more than £400,000 on Work Opportunities in the coming 2019-20 budget. Despite saying that this is not about reducing support for people, it’s clear that cutting costs will reduce opportunities. You cannot square that circle.

“It makes a mockery of the Social Services and Well-being Act, which is meant to involve everyone in discussions such as these. I’m afraid the council is still not listening to the people who will be most directly affected by this cut – the service users and their carers.

“Our concern is that these work opportunities provide so much for service users, their carers as well as the wider community – something that you can’t easily put a price on.

“We’re in danger of going backwards in our treatment and care of the most vulnerable members of our society – it’s they who are bearing the brunt of these cuts.”

A report on the Day and Work Opportunities is set to be presented for Executive Board approval in June and is currently listed on the forward work programme for that meeting.

Detail provided within the forward work programme explains that the lead member for adult social care, Cllr Joan Lowe, will “provide executive with a report on the review of Day and Work opportunities and to seek approval to progress the implementation of the proposals identified for the initial phase.”

Commenting on the review, Cllr Lowe said: “Adult Social Care is undertaking a review across Day and Work Opportunities as outlined in the Difficult Decisions 2018-2020 document.

“The review is being completed in phases and consultations are taking place within each phase.

“Recommendations will be prepared for consideration by the Executive Board before any final decisions are made.

“Reports prepared for the Executive Board will make direct reference to any feedback, issues, concerns and ideas received during the consultations.

Cllr Lowe added: “We fully recognise the anxiety that this review and any potential changes will cause for individuals and their families. Any changes that are brought forward will be managed sensitively with the people we support.”

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