Two day centres for elderly and disabled residents are to close their doors following a decision by East Sussex County Council’s leaders.
Members of the Conservative-controlled cabinet agreed to cease day services at the Charter Centre in Bexhill and the Isabel Blackman Centre in Hasting and recommission from alternative providers.
Both services are currently run on behalf of the council by the Sussex Community Development Association (SCDA).
A third day centre run by SCDA at the Phoenix Centre in Lewes is to remain open as an alternative provider could not be found in the surrounding area.
Carl Maynard, the council’s lead member for adult social care and health, said: “Clearly we have an obligation to deliver the same care at less cost and we need to take this opportunity so we can actually mitigate against any unnecessary cost.
“We will ensure minimum disruption to clients and carers throughout the process.”
Tania Charman, Labour councillor for Old Hastings and Tressell ward, spoke out about the closure of the Isabel Blackman Centre, raising concerns about the plans to find a cheaper like-for-like service elsewhere in the town.
Cllr Charman also raised concerns about what would happen to the Isabel Blackman Centre itself. She said: “What about the covenant on the Isabel Blackman Centre building if you dispose of this service?
“This is not your building. It was gifted to by the Isabel Blackman Foundation in the 1970s on the condition it provides services for elderly and vulnerable people. How do we solve that problem I wonder?
“Well, Hastings people say they will not allow you to close the service and then dispose of this asset without a fight.”
During the meeting cabinet members heard the SCDA centres cost the council more than purchasing day care places from other providers. This higher cost, council reports say, is due in part to the centres having a ‘lower level of occupancy’ despite efforts to increase client numbers.
Liberal Democrat councillor John Ungar raised concerns about the client numbers, asking what support was had been made available from the council.
Speaking about a previous review of the day centres, Cllr Ungar said: “I know at the time there were great concerns about the Charter Centre. Maybe my memory isn’t as exact as it could be but my impression was that a lot more would be done about the marketing.
“This is something, I think, where adult social care could do more in supporting these private companies or not-for-profit organisations in some of the activities they need to do to make their services all the more accessible and all the more successful.
“When I visited [the Charter Centre] the people who were there spoke highly of it. They were in knitting circles, they were doing art, they were doing all sorts of activities that I haven’t seen elsewhere.”
Cllr Ungar also raised concerns about the impact of the closures when combined with previous cuts to adult social care. He said: “On these three centres we’re looking to compound a reduction in day service provision for older people in East Sussex.
“We’ve only just had a whole round of cuts, in the last year or so, where day centres were closed.”
The decision to close and re-commission the day centres is expected to save the council £188,438 and comes as part of a broad range of cost-cutting measures taking £9.6m from the adult social care budget.