THE closure of a day centre for adults with learning disabilities has meant they have had to fund activities from their own pockets.
The impact of the closure of Abergavenny’s Tudor Centre was outlined to councillors who were also told of the emotional toll it had taken on service users and their families.
Members of Monmouthshire County Council’s people scrutiny committee heard from people who have used the centre – which never reopened after it closed at the start of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020 – as they considered a review of the My Day, My Life support service for adults with learning disabilities in the north and central parts of the county.
They were also presented with a 3,000 signature petition calling for the immediate reopening of the centre with the Labour led council’s ruling cabinet set to make a decision on implementing the review’s recommendation this Wednesday, July 26 – that could pave the way to the Tudor Street building being brought back into use.
Sarah Griffiths, who presented the petition to Councillor John Crook, chairman of the council’s people scrutiny committee, was one of 13 members of the public who were able to address the committee.
The 38-year-old from Abergavenny had used the Tudor Centre from 2000 and like other users was shocked to learn in November last year the council cabinet had agreed to its permanent closure. An apology was later issued for the way the closure had been announced without consultation.
When the closure was agreed the council dismissed a day centre as an outdated concept and said the My Day, My Life service was focused on individual support and helping people take part in activities in the wider community.
However the review of the service has found that the day centre was valued for the social interactions it offered and as a base for the service, and has recommended My Day, My Life should have a base in both Abergavenny and Monmouth.
Ms Griffiths told councillors: “People with disabilities are crying out for it to be re-opened.”
She said the Tudor Centre had provided her an opportunity to meet with friends, while the My Mates companionship service the council offers isn’t affordable.
She said: “With My Mates to go out on trips everyday I can’t afford it, it costs a fortune. Why not open the centre so people can use it? You councillors are stopping us from seeing our friends.”
Campaigner Owen B Lewis, who used to work at the Tudor Centre, said the My Mates service was reliant on people being paid to accompany service users, who have to meet the cost themselves.
He said: “Monmouthshire employees someone to go out with vulnerable adults, mainly out for meals, not to provide a service but to facilitate the event, they don’t provide any support, and the service users and families have to pay for everything.”
He said he recognised the value of a providing a variety of services but said he’d talked to many users with concerns about the cost and the lack of transport related to the service.
Karen Webb, whose 23-year-old son Alex Davies, used the Tudor Centre during school holidays and was due to attend full time before it was closed due to the lockdown, said operating without a base has caused difficulties for staff and those being supported.
She said: “His support workers take him out in our mobility car, and it’s very expensive for me to provide the petrol, they don’t do meaningful activities and the support workers, who are all fantastic, have to think of places to take him especially if the weather is bad and have even had to use super market toilets to change him. I’m very happy the review is recommending there should be a hub.
“The Tudor Street building already has all the facilities and it needs to be open and up and running long before the autumn and winter months arrive.”
Ms Webb also said the process of fighting the closure decision and taking part in the review had taken its toll: “We are fighting for what people deserve and pushing back all the time. It is draining. All we want for our son is to have a happy, safe life while he is still with us. Time is so precious but we are constantly coming to things like this, wasting valuable time that should be spent with our loved ones.”
Green Party councillor Ian Chandler, who was appointed as the cabinet member for social care in May, said he will recommend to the cabinet it accepts the review’s finding in full.
He said he agreed with the council’s chief officer for social care that the review is a chance to “restore, refocus and revive My Day, My Life and take it back to its founding principles” of putting people, and their individual needs, at its heart.
It has shortlisted the Tudor Centre, as well as Abergavenny Community Centre and the Melville Theatre as possible bases for support and the service’s staff in the north of the county, and the Bridges Centre, the Monnow Vale Health and Social Care facility and Overmonnow Family Learning Centre in Monmouth.
The scrutiny committee was cut short after three hours when Mr Lewis continued to press Cllr Chandler over reopening the Tudor Centre, despite the public speaking session having ended.
Members of the scrutiny committee said the bases chosen should also have a kitchen and garden “to enable people to continue with activities they really enjoy” and supported the review’s recommendations but were concerned at how a scoring system to assess the potential bases had been drawn up.