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Disability day centre facing axe; Services cut and relocated.

Byline: HELEN RAE

A LEARNING disability day centre on Tyneside is to be axed as a wave of Government cuts have been approved.

Birtley Day Centre in Gateshead will be withdrawn and its 34 services users relocated to other premises in the region.

The removal of the day service was accepted by Gateshead Council Cabinet members and the centre will close once the needs of all users and carers have been reassessed.

Louise Rule, head of sport, wellbeing and independence at Gateshead Council said: "Last month, Gateshead's cabinet members approved a new vision for the council's disability day services after looking at the outcome of detailed consultations.

"The council's new vision includes changing the way people with a disabilities receive services so they are more personalised.

"We also want to help people to be more involved in their local community, and ensure we don't have buildings that we don't need in the future.

"Birtley Day Centre is outdated and in a poor condition.

It costs a great deal of money to maintain and only 50% of it is occupied. As a result, it is a major drain on our resources.

"We are confident that we can provide the kind of services currently available in a much better way."

As reported in the Chronicle, Gateshead Council has set out two years' worth of cuts, pounds 38m in total, which will see 450 posts go.

Around pounds 189,000 will go from disability day services and the changes will be delivered from April next year. Government budget cuts and the need to make services more personalised, as people are now able to choose and pay for the services they would prefer, have also been considerations in the development of the plans.

It is claimed the suggested changes would use current resources more efficiently and maximise the expertise and skills of the current workforce. New plans include changes to some services, expansion of others and the withdrawal of some.

People who use learning disability services, their carers, supporting organisations, voluntary groups and staff were all asked their views on the proposed plans from July through to October. Coun Michael McNestry, cabinet member for adult social care at Gateshead Council, said: "The Government has reduced our funding and service users want more personalised services.

"We have responded to this and ensured that the people who use our services have been at the forefront of our decisions."

Planned changes to the way services are delivered in the future have been based upon both local and national priorities, the council's knowledge of the people who use the services and the needs of family carers.

People with a need for disability day services in the future will be given more opportunity to get involved in employment, social enterprise initiatives and increase their involvement in their local community.

Gateshead Council has anticipated hundreds of jobs will be axed throughout the council's services as it is forced to millions of pounds worth of savings.

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AXED The Birtley Day Centre will be closed
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2011
Words:505
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