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Philip Evans


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HONITON: Day centre will be next to go

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The closure of Honiton’s St Michael’s Day Centre is all but certain to be confirmed, after recommendations to drastically re-shape services were finalised this week. The county authority has been forced to reassess its financial commitment to a huge range of public services and the closure of the town’s youth centre has already been announced. A campaign to save the day centre was launched earlier this year when proposals for cutting back day services were first revealed, and a petition containing more than 1,300 signatures was presented to council leader John Hart during the consultation process. But despite strong objections, councillors are set to press ahead with the plans and St Michael’s is likely to be one of 17 day centres to close across the county. Half of Devon’s day centres will be retained, with services targeting the most vulnerable and people with disabilities. And the council insists these measures are the only way to balance budgets as a result of the Government’s austerity programme. Councillor Stuart Barker, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for day services, said: “Nothing will happen immediately. This is a process that will take time and we will do this with great care and sensitivity. “In taking the decisions, I want to ensure that everyone who is entitled to have a service from us gets it, and that they will continue to receive a service that meets their needs. “We need to recognise that there are far more people eligible for our support who choose not to attend day centres, least of all our day centres.” The number of people using day centres in Devon has fallen by two-thirds over the last nine years and St Michael’s was being “significantly under-utilised”, the council claims. But service users and Honiton councillors argued that the occupancy rate had actually increased in since 2012, and that the loss of the centre would be a major blow to elderly people and their carers. The county council has given assurances that no day centres will be closed until alternative care provision can be found and will now work with other private-sector service providers to make new arrangements. Councillor Barker added: “We will be working with the private and voluntary sector in local communities. “Individual support from independent trained professionals will be provided to help people with more complex care needs. “No one will be left without a day service or be financially worse off for it.”

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