Opinion: Day care centre places lost must be replaced

Mary Langan is campaigning for more day centre places in Haringey.

Mary Langan is campaigning for more day centre places in Haringey. - Credit: Archant


Mary Langan. Picture: Luke Dixon

Mary Langan. Picture: Luke Dixon - Credit: Archant

Why we need day centres.

The plight of Matthew (not his real name), a young man with autism, severe learning disabilities and complex health needs, illustrates the problems faced by many Haringey families because of the inadequacy of day care provision in the borough.

Matthew experiences difficulties in making transitions from one environment to another, as well as problems in relation to toileting and diet, which may lead to challenging behaviour if he becomes frustrated or anxious. Because of these difficulties he needs care by skilled and experienced staff who are alert to his particular needs.

It was a blow to his parents to learn last year that Matthew had been turned down for a place at Haringey’s sole surviving day facility for people with autism and learning disabilities. Centre staff felt that they could not cope with Matthew’s needs, in terms of managing his diet and medication as well as containing his challenging behaviour.

Seventeen adult social care provisions, including several day centres, have been closed in the borough over the past ten years, so options for families are now very limited.

Forced to fall back on a home-care package, with care workers spending up to 10 hours a day in the family home, his parents describe the “debilitating impact on home life”.

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Matthew’s parents – both long retired – were obliged to manage a situation deemed too challenging by professional staff.

A further consequence of Matthew’s exclusion from the day centre was that he was taken by inexperienced carers to an evening club, in the course of which he was subjected to physical abuse (captured on CCTV) by two staff members. The family then had to endure an adult safeguarding investigation which dragged on for seven months – while Matthew was confined to home – before the workers involved were sacked.

That Matthew’s needs are all too familiar is confirmed by a report recently published by Haringey Healthwatch.

This report is based on a review, commissioned by the council, of day centre provisions for people with learning difficulties in the borough.

It was carried out by Healthwatch researcher Maryam Hamedi in collaboration with SCALD; the Severe and Complex Adult Learning Disability family support group. The study confirms a consensus among service users and family carers, as well as day centre staff, that more investment in day centres is urgently required in Haringey.*

There is a now a glimmer of hope arising from the commitment of the council to provide a new day centre, dedicated to the needs of people with autism and learning disabilities at Waltheoff Gardens in Tottenham.

We need to make sure that Haringey provides sufficient funding to guarantee at least to replace the 30 places that were lost when the previous day centre was closed after the austerity budgets of the previous council.

Matthew’s parents are watching these developments closely. As his father says: “Without day care users have no other option but to remain at home or live in supported living. The removal of day centres has undermined the essential continuum of care in the community with a range of choice and transitions for adults living away from home.”

*Review of day centre provision for people with learning disabilities. February 2020, Healthwatch Haringey.