Care centres face closure

THOUSANDS of vulnerable people could have their care cut and charges increased under council plans submitted to consultation this week.

Two day centres, one for young adults with disabilities and another, which caters for older people, also face closure if proposals to drive down the costs of adult social care get the go ahead.

In June, the Times revealed that Westminster Council planned to tighten the eligibility criteria for adult social care in a drive to slash �4 million from the bill over the next three years.

But carers groups have reacted angrily to the proposals, which they warn could create a care time-bomb within a few years, with people having to wait until they are critically ill before they get the support they need.

Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, a national carer’s charity, said: “Counsel and Care is extremely concerned about the knock-on effects such increases in charges will have on the quality of life for older people and their carers.

“If these short-sighted plans are put into action, the impact will be felt first by the most vulnerable, who will have to go without vital care and support, and then on acute health services as people are forced to reach crisis point before they get help.”

Westminster Council currently has one of the most generous adult social care provisions in London, and has offered services to people assessed as of moderate need while other town halls only cover people with substantial and critical needs.

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But the proposals, which include scrapping the current �380 per week cap on homecare charges, would put an end to this reputation.

Cherished day centres at Sherbourne House, in Winchester Street, Pimlico, and in Westbourne Park Road, Kensington, will also be closed as the council moves to consolidate services.

Council chiefs say these cutbacks are necessary if they are to meet their austerity targets, and will be balanced by extending provision of preventative services for people with low to moderate needs, to help them remain independent for longer.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, adult services chief, said: “Given the current economic climate, reductions in public sector funding and increased demand for adult social care services, our current levels of spending are simply not sustainable.

“As a result we are going to have to make some tough and potentially uncomfortable decisions.”

The 12-week consultation with service users began on September 15. New arrangements will be in place from April next year.

Meanwhile, a report to the council’s audit and performance committee revealed that the council faces a �14m overspend this year, raising the prospect of further cuts and job losses.

The shortfall was put down to a reduction in predicted parking income, fewer than anticipated savings, dwindling commercial revenues, and cuts to Government grants.