Sheringham's DayBreak centre to close
Victoria LeggettA day centre supporting adults with learning difficulties in north Norfolk has become a casualty of the move to personalised budgets.Break, the charity behind the DayBreak centre, said the service would end in September following the end of its current contract with Norfolk County Council.Victoria Leggett
A day centre supporting adults with learning difficulties in north Norfolk has become a casualty of the move to personalised budgets.
Break, the charity behind the DayBreak centre, said the service would end in September following the end of its current contract with Norfolk County Council.
In the past Break has received a lump sum in funding from the authority to run the DayBreak service in Sheringham and has cluster groups across north Norfolk.
But the national personalisation agenda now gives individuals control over their own budgets and the type of care they receive - removing that direct county council funding for the day centre.
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Break said traditional day services, like DayBreak, were not flexible enough to meet people's specific needs and convince them to use their individual payments at the centre.
It had therefore decided ending the service would be the best option - meaning taking it away from 50 adults with learning difficulties who currently use it, as well as putting the jobs of staff working in the centres at risk of redundancy.
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In recent months day centre workers across the county have reacted angrily to the council's decision to withdraw funding and switch to individual payments.
But Don Evans, Break's director of corporate services, said the charity actually supported the move.
He said: 'It's bitter sweet for us. It is disappointing because this is a service we have run for a long time. But we are absolutely 100pc behind our service users being empowered to influence the service provided for them.'
Last night the county council said personal budgets were opening up 'new and exciting opportunities for vulnerable people' and transforming the way social care was provided, enabling them to live full and active lives in their community.
Debbie Olley, assistant director of safeguarding, said the authority would support DayBreak's users through the change.
She said: 'We would like to reassure everyone attending the DayBreak centre in Sheringham or cluster groups in Cromer, Stalham, North Walsham and Sheringham that we will be working closely with them and their families to find alternative day activities and opportunities in their area.'
The decision to close DayBreak was also heavily influenced by the condition of the building in Sheringham.
Mr Evans said it needed a lot of money spending on it to make it fit for purpose, which could not be justified for a service which did not have a long future.
He said: 'If we thought we would be providing the service for another 25 years, we would look to make the investment. In reality, we would be using our hard-earned voluntary income for a service people don't want.'
The charity insisted the fate of DayBreak was a specific case and there were no other cuts in the pipeline.
Mr Evans said: 'This is very much a small part of what Break provides. There are no concerns at all over the rest of our services.'
He also said he was confident there were other services, from other organisations, available to those adults currently using DayBreak which were more suited to personalised budgets.
The move to personalised budgets is a nationwide drive to give people more control over the care they receive.
They are being phased in in Norfolk, with all 35,000 service users expected to be offered the scheme by 2013.
It will mean an end to block funding to organisations which run services like day centres.
Instead, people in need of care will be assessed and given an individual payment over which they have control, spending it on the support they need and want.
Some, including Break, see the scheme as a way of putting vulnerable people in the driving seat, giving them more freedom and increasing their sense of self worth.
Don Evans, the charity's director of corporate services, said: 'They can influence what that care looks like. If they don't want to go to the day centre, they can pay someone to support them to the do the activities they do want to do.'
But others have criticised the move saying it could end up stripping the elderly or disabled of any choice if services are forced to close because of a lack of funding.
Under the personalised budget scheme, day centres will only get the money if service users choose to attend. Without that guaranteed income, many - particularly organisations running luncheon clubs in day centres - have found themselves contemplating closure if the service proves unviable.