Some Council run disability employment services set to close to meet budget cuts
Some ventures that have historically provided work opportunities for disabled people are set to close to help meet council budget savings, although Wrexham Council are keen to point out the Alyn Waters cafe will not be closing.
The report before councillors next week notes the council is looking to make savings of £334,000 which are part of the already agreed budget process. It will also examine the future of Cunliffe Enablement Centre and the Erlas Garden Project during the next stage.
Meeting the savings involves cessation of two projects, Coverall and Portable Appliance testing (PAT). The Cafe in Alyn Waters comes under Wrexham Council’s Adult Social Care, which are looking to run it ‘in partnership’ rather than directly as it is now, but they say they will ensure any contractor gives the opportunity for those working there to carry on.
Cllr David Bithell (speaking to us instead of Cllr Joan Lowe, the Lead Member on People – Health and Adult Social Care) explained Wrexham Council have conducted soft market testing and there was around 10-12 entities interested in taking over the cafe, including some ‘well known local organisations’.
Cllr Bithell added: “The future of Alyn Waters is really good, and there will be opportunities for those with disabilities, subject to a tender exercise.”
“It is not true to say there have not been concerns, as there have been. To be fair to the social care department they have been working with individual families and carers to make sure we meet the needs of individuals going forward.”
“It is key to stress that it is an emotive subject, but the Officers have been working extremely hard behind the scenes to cater for individual needs.”
“Cllr Lowe has done a lot of work behind the scenes with our Officers in Adult Social Care, it is not a negative situation.”
The report notes the consideration of consultations: “The consultation feedback has not produced any compelling arguments/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.”
A recent Scrutiny committee raised concerns about the social impact of Wrexham Council’s proposals, with councillors saying they wanted to see the full details of the replacement service and asked Cllr Lowe and the Executive Board to defer making a decision – something that is effectively being ignored.
Cllr Bithell noted Scrutiny wanted to look at individual cases, “We felt that was not appropriate at this time, I am not sure that is a scrutiny function. To be fair to our Officers they are working with individual parents, carers and the individuals themselves.”
“The more work Scrutiny wanted to be done, is already being done by our Officers behind the scenes to make sure we do our best to cater for every individual. We have taken on board the Scrutiny recommendations, now it is a matter for the Executive to make decision next week.”
Last year there was anger from councillors after proposals emerged in Wrexham Council’s Difficult Decisions consultation to cease a £4 a day wage for those involved with the day and work opportunities projects.
However plans to cut the funding provoked an angry response from councillors before Christmas, with petrol poured on those flames with an unsympathetic equality suggestion by Lead Member for Health and Adult Social Care, Joan Lowe not helping the debate (full report here). The proposals were subsequently withdrawn.
Cllr Lowe was not available for us to pose questions to, so we asked Cllr Pritchard and Cllr Bithell if the related current process was being conducted in a more caring, softer, manner.
Cllr Pritchard said: “Sometimes things are said that are taken out of context. I think Cllr Bithell is right, Cllr Joan Lowe has done a large amount of work with Officer to deliver services and opportunities in partnership with organisations that have expertise in that field to deliver things better than we can. We want a want a quality of service for these individuals that improves their quality of life.”
Cllr Pritchard said previous comments were ‘unfortunate’ and ‘once said cant be retracted’, but noted that in his opinion Cllr Lowe ‘always has a softer approach to things’.
Cllr Bithell agree, adding: “Despite what people say about us out there the reality is this is the best option going forward. It gives sustainability.”
“We are hopeful everyone will be accommodated, and as part of Wrexham Council we are committed to providing opportunities for those less fortunate and with disabilities and this is a good way forward.”
“In response to if it is a softer approach, it is the right approach.”
The plans will be considered by the executive board on Tuesday.
You can read the report before councillors here, and below are the recommendations from the report:
Further detail on each business project is listed below, again from the report:
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