Users fear for future of day centre as cuts bite

IPSWICH: Don’t close our day care centre!

That was the impassioned plea today from the family of one of the users of the Crabbe Street centre in Ipswich.

They fear the centre, along with other similar sites across the county, could be vulnerable as Suffolk seeks to change the way it provides social services.

Their concerns come as Chancellor George Osborne was today preparing to announce massive public sector cuts in his comprehensive spending review.

A petition has been launched at Crabbe Street in an attempt to prevent any threat to the centre – and the county council insist there are no plans to change it in the near future.

However, county councillor with responsibility for adult services, Colin Noble, said the way people received care was likely to change.

He said: “We will be moving far more to personal budgets for those who need county council support.

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“Money will be given to the people, or their families, to allow them to buy in services that they need. It may be that they choose to buy in care services at day centres like Crabbe Street, but they will have the choice and may decide to buy in some other form of care.”

Mr Noble said this could also lead to changes in the way services are delivered.

“Day centres like Crabbe Street are likely to be run by organisations like charities or social enterprise companies. In Newmarket, there is a very successful day centre run by a charity where the county buys in sessions.

“In future that could happen elsewhere – but with the families having control of the money to buy in the services.”

Denise Biddlecombe’s mother Barbara, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, has two sessions a week at Crabbe Street – which allows her husband Len to have some time off from caring for her.

Ms Biddlecombe said: “We are very worried about the future of Crabbe Street. It is a lifeline for our family and many others.

“There is a petition that people are signing – we want to ensure there is no threat to the centre because it is so important.”

Meanwhile, Mr Noble claimed Suffolk County Council was unlikely to achieve its ambition of outsourcing all its services.

The county council aims to transfer all its services to the private sector, voluntary bodies, or new “social enterprises”.

However, Mr Noble accepted it was unlikely to be able to “divest” all its services to other providers.

He said: “It is certainly right for us to look as if we can divest all our services – but the fact is we are unlikely to be able to transfer everything away.”

n How important are the county’s day centres and other services for the elderly? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

n Opinion – page 6

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