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Caerphilly County Borough Council is continuing to face calls for its day care centres to return to pre-pandemic opening hours.
Carers of adults with learning difficulties in Caerphilly County Borough have said they have seen an 80% reduction in social care support since the pandemic, with some users going from 30 hours a week to just six.
Mark Robotham, whose disabled son Michael attends Brooklands day centre, Risca, said: “Carers have been told that day services are being modernised, a reduction in day support is not a modernisation, I feel it is a return to Dickensian times.”
Michael is in need of round-the-clock care. His father said the reduction in social care hours offered by the council could mean he has to be moved to residential care.
A petition organised by carers, which has so far received more than 1,200 signatures, is calling on the council to return the operation of day centres to their pre-pandemic schedule.
Heather Price cares for her daughter Sian Thomas who has autism and is registered blind.
Ms Thomas, 40, who has attended Brooklands day centre for more than 20 years, is unable to speak and needs help with day-to-day tasks.
Mrs Price described the reduction in her daughter’s social care hours as “cruel”.
Ms Price added: “Every carer I have spoken to wants the day centres to be open as normal, like they were before the pandemic.”
Prior to the pandemic, day centres were a place adults with learning difficulties could attend to socialise with their peers, do activities, or use the sensory rooms available.
Emma Lee, who works as a support worker and cares for her 24-year-old son Bradley, said it was “heartbreaking” to see the change in Bradley’s behaviour, which she says is down to his lack of socialising.
Ms Lee said: “I don’t think their mental health has been taken into consideration. I don’t understand what’s changed for the council to think that people like Bradley don’t need as much support as they did before the pandemic.”
A meeting of more than 70 carers was held in Blackwood rugby club at the beginning of September to discuss their concerns.
The council said it has been consulting carers and service users by sending out a survey.
In the survey, service users were asked what activities they enjoyed at the day centres, with gardening, arts and crafts, shopping and singing all listed as options to choose from.
Mr Robotham described the survey sent to carers as “insulting”, because his son Michael is not able to do the activities listed.
He said: “For those who can go out and do gardening and shopping, absolutely they should be able to, but some individuals are never going to be able to be active.
“We seem to be going backwards not forwards. The council are trying to fix something that is not broken. My son’s needs were met pre-pandemic when he could go to the day centre.”
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The council’s Plaid Cymru has called on the council to delay the changes being made to day centre services.
Plaid Cymru group leader Cllr Colin Mann said: “The proposals drafted by social services have caused real distress and anxiety among carers and we believe it is better to pause any proposed changes prior to an extensive review.
“The Plaid group doesn’t want to see a consultation which is merely going through the motions and the proposals will just be driven through without enough regard to carers and their family members.
“We have already been made aware of carers who have not been consulted.”
Plaid Cymru has asked Labour and Independent councillors to support the motion.
The Independent Group have proposed a counter motion calling for better representation and communication with carers and service users.
Kevin Etheridge, leader of the Independent Group, said: “I believe a working party set up of users, carers, elected members, officers and the trade unions to look at meaningful consultation is the way forward.”
A spokesperson for Caerphilly County Borough Council said: “We have been consulting service users about the future of day care services, as we want to deliver a modern, fit for purpose service that meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“We are currently considering all the feedback and we will be fully engaging with services users, staff and trade unions over the coming weeks as part of this process.”
On Tuesday, September 20, the issue was raised in the Senedd by Plaid Cymru MS Peredur Owen Griffiths, who represents the South Wales East region.
Mr Griffiths said the cuts in hours will have a “devastatingly detrimental for disabled adults and their families” and called on First Minister Mark Drakeford, to issue guidance to local authorities.
In response, the Mr Drakeford said: “I’ve followed the recent debate about day care services in Caerphilly and I’m quite sure that those responsible for making those difficult decisions will have been listening carefully to what the Member [Mr Griffiths] has said today and to the views of their local communities.
“The Welsh Government does indeed provide guidance on all of these matters and monitors local authority spending through a complex variety of routes, including in the social services field.
“In the end, these are local decisions made by those people who are closest to the communities that they serve, taking into account, as I’m sure Caerphilly Council does, the views of its own local residents.”
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