£500,000 funding to help community groups run day centres

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A COUNCIL has set aside £500,000 to help community groups and businesses take over day centre services.

Lincolnshire County Council agreed on Tuesday not to close the Stamford Day Centre in Ryhall Road and the Stamford and Bourne Learning Disability Services, based in Abbey Road, Bourne.

The council proposed closing the centres in October but a public outcry and a Mercury campaign forced them to make a U-turn.

Councillors have now decided to keep the centres open and encourage existing staff, community groups and businesses to take them on.

Executive member for adult social care, Coun Graham Marsh (Con), said: ‪“We said at the start that nothing was off the table and are now pleased to be pressing forward with plans to keep the buildings open, which users told us they wanted.

“Our next job is to ensure that they continue to provide the services that people want to use - and at the same high standards we expect.

“We’ve therefore committed half a million pounds into a day opportunities development fund and created a resource team which will support the development of these community assets.

“We’re also delighted to say that we have already received nine formal proposals or strong interest from staff groups and parent/carer steering groups, with several other informal expressions of interest too.”

The council expects the majority of its 31 day centres across the county to be taken over within two years. The move towards privatisation ties in with the shift to the personal budget scheme, which lets care users decide where to spend their public care grant.

The council says if enough users show they want to spend their personal budgets on a particular day centre it will prove the centre is a viable business proposition.

But some people are not so sure of the council’s plans.

John Butcher, of Edmonds Close, Stamford, is the vice-chairman of the Northfields Neighbourhood Group, which represents up to 1,000 people in sheltered housing in the town.

He thinks the council will find it difficult to persuade its existing care staff to go into business for themselves.

He said: “It depends on the employment terms that they switch to. Personal budgets are not going to be spread thick enough to pay these ex-public service staff on the same basis as they are getting now.

“I can’t see charities bridging the gap and being able to match the terms that the Government has been giving to public servants.”