PURPOSE-built daycare centres for adults with learning disabilities are being lost to converted premises not designed for the role, a parent has warned.
The Oaks at Wath has closed and Maltby’s Addison is set to follow suit soon under a Rotherham Council move saving £3 million.
The authority says private and voluntary-run alternatives can provide a wider range of experiences and opportunities than its traditional daycare provision.
But carer Monica Hudson, whose daughter Emma attends Addison, said: “Both Addison and the Oaks were purpose-built, bright buildings in the middle of community settings.
“The facilities were very good, with plenty of natural light. Addison has a modern kitchen and dining room, a smaller tearoom and a number of rooms to facilitate various activities.
“It also had a charity shop and offered excellent community services to individuals and groups, and an extensive outdoor area.
“Emma and I have visited some of the alternative daycare provision and I am quite upset and disappointed with where they are situated, the facilities available and the lack of outdoor space.”
Monica praised the “committed and experienced” staff in the newer centres — many of whom have experience of Addison and Oaks.
But she added: “The centres are being run from places like an old Methodist chapel, ex-funeral directors, an old charity school founded in the 1600s and retail park and industrial park units.
“They were not designed to accommodate the various needs of people with a learning disability. The facilities are very limited. A couple of the buildings have only one large room with a sink. Another has only one window.
“It would be very difficult to facilitate a variety of different activities or enable someone to choose an alternative pursuit or join a different group of friends.
“The lack of outdoor space at the centres I visited makes it impossible for people to undertake physical activities, to exercise, access sunshine and fresh air or simply enjoy a garden environment.”
Another aspect of the council’s My Front Door policy of shifting away from providing its own daycare has been the pledge to keep together friendship groups formed at Oaks and Addison.
“Councillors and senior officers promised to ensure that these would be maintained when transitioning to the new services, but find it difficult to find any evidence of this,” said Monica.
Ian Spicer, the council’s assistant director of independent living and support, said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases but the feedback we have received from people who have moved to other activities and pathways through the My Front Door service has been really positive.
“The experiences of some people who have used the My Front Door service has also previously been reported in the Advertiser.
“We are transforming services for adults with learning disabilities, providing increased choice and opportunities for greater independence.
“We know that the changes can be worrying for some people, and unfortunately there have been delays during the Covid-19 pandemic, but we remain determined to offer people across the borough a chance to decide their own life choices.”
About 40 Addison clients are awaiting reassessment before the centre is shut.