“IT’S like someone throwing a hand grenade and you don’t know when it will go off...”
These are the words of the elderly parent of a man with a severe learning disability, who has waited with dread since February to find out if a vital lifeline will be cut off. He is not alone.
Doncaster Council is still deciding which two of the borough’s five Social Education Centres will be closed.
One such centre is on Old Road, Conisbrough, giving respite to the families and carers of around 100 people with learning disabilities and Downs Syndrome, from Mexborough and the surrounding areas.
A lot of the carers rely on daily respite to keep their OWN sanity.
The centres give day–care to adults with ages ranging from 30-60 years old– so some parents are much older, perhaps in their 80s. If the daily respite was lost, they would have to look after them 24/7.
Almost certainly a lot wouldn’t be able to cope. Some of the centre users are wheelchair-bound, which would mean them being confined to their homes as their families would not be able to take them out.
Many would have to rely on further help from Social Services, perhaps meaning full-time care. Would it make economical sense to close them? – the extra cost could well outweigh keeping the centres open.
In the words of the anonymous parent: “If they close a local centre they might say we will bus them to a different one – but these users have formed bonds with their carers, they have concerts and musical nights. To take that away would be cruel”.
Doncaster Council has to implement cuts of £70m over the next four years – which will not be an easy task, by any stretch of the imagination.
But the old cliche – “a society should be judged on how it treats its weakest members” – has never seemed so apt.