THEY are a lifeline to Hampshire’s most vulnerable residents and their families – but now vital care homes and day centres across the county are facing closure.

Despite repeated pledges to protect frontline services social services bosses now want to close three homes, merge two and relocate one, cutting the total number from nine to five.

They are also planning to slash the number of day centres from 12 to four.

The closures are set to save the cash-strapped county council millions of pounds in repair bills and running costs.

The county council says the day centres are old and money raised from selling them will be used for new facilities, adding that youngsters prefer care in their own homes.

But the move has been condemned by charities for people with learning difficulties and the families of users.

It comes despite pledges by Conservative council leader Councillor Ken Thornber, who came under fire earlier this year for secret bonus payments to senior staff, to protect frontline services as far as possible.

Among the homes earmarked for closure over the next two years are 15-bed Harestock Hostel in Upton Grey Close,Winchester and 12- bed Croft House in Redland Lane, Fareham.

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Highfield House in Church Road, Eastleigh and Dalewood off Chiltern Way, Basingstoke, both five-bed units, are to be merged into one larger facility while Fernmount House, Forest Pines, in New Milton is to be re-located.

All nine homes are rated “excellent” or “good” by the Care Quality Commission and some have been refurbished.

At present, the 99 beds are used mainly for respite or emergency care but 26 longstay residents live in the homes, including six at Harestock Hostel.

In addition, 423 people with learning disabilities and their families have planned respite care breaks.

Existing day centres at Kings Worthy, Fareham, Gosport, Bishopstoke, Romsey, New Milton, Andover and Basingstoke will shut over the next two years under the proposals.

In total, 835 learning disabled people attend the day centres which provide social contact and activities.

The day centre at Locks Heath will remain open while three buildings with facilities for the severely disabled will be built.

Last month Cllr Thornber told a meeting of the council’s controlling cabinet that all departments would have to cut their budgets by eight per cent in 2010-11 but frontline child protection and adult social care would be protected.

The promise was repeated in the latest edition of council magazine Hampshire Now outlining proposed cost cutting measures. He wrote: “We have enormous responsibilities for frontline services, particularly to vulnerable children and adults and by taking this approach to dealing with the cuts we aim to protect frontline services at the point of delivery as far as possible.”

Among those devastated by the threatened closures is Jane Jessop, chairman of Winchester Mencap who has a 25-year-old son with Downs syndrome.

Mrs Jessop said: “This will isolate more people in their own homes.”

“Parents feel they (the council) are picking on vulnerable people who don’t understand and it will seem like a punishment to them if they can’t go to their day centre anymore.”

Mrs Jessop, who founded the Blue Apple Theatre Company for people of all abilities, said one of the problems was the lack of alternatives for adults with learning disabilities.

Another user Trevor Rabjohn whose daughter Emma, 36, has lived at Harestock Hostel, also known as Upton Grey, in Winchester since it opened in 1993 added: “Mr Thornber is saying one thing and allowing another to happen. These services are the last place the council should be looking to save money.”

Council managers say in-house day care is less popular with younger adults with learning disabilities who would rather choose their own care.

A report from Gill Duncan, director of adult services, says the main aim is to “modernise the services rather than save money.”

The same report adds closing and merging homes will save about £1.7m a year.

In addition, the council will not have to pay £6m in estimated future repair costs if care homes and day centres are closed.

The council strategy is to get the less disabled to have personal care budgets using direct payments to buy services suited to their needs in community venues.

Personal assistants could be employed to help them get out and about while short breaks can be provided more cheaply by the independent sector.

This will leave the council to focus day services and respite care on the growing number of severely disabled adults with complex needs living with their families.

Managers say they will consult the 26 long-stay residents and their families to help them access alternatives such as supported living schemes.

Councillor Felicity Hindson, executive member for adult social care, is expected to approve a 14-week public consultation tomorrow before any final decisions are made on April 29. Cllr Hindson said: “There will be no reduction in the amount of services available.

“I do understand change is difficult and that is why we are planning to consult extensively on the transformation of services.”

In a statement Cllr Thornber stressed that no decisions had been made.

The council leader said: “The proposals offer a new way of delivering day and respite care, they are not suggesting a reduction in service.

“If we are to be efficient and meet the changing aspirations of people with a learning disability we cannot continue to deliver services in the same way.”

Residential and respite care homes

■ Croft House, Fareham, - to close
■ Dalewood, Basingstoke – to merge
■ Fernmount House, New Milton – to relocate
■ Highfield House, Eastleigh – to merge
■ Homewood House, Andover - stay open
■ Meadow Croft House, Aldershot – to close
■ Orchard Close, Hayling Island – stay open
■ Upton Grey (Harestock Hostel), Winchester – to close
■ West Street, Havant – stay open


Southampton City Council runs its own adult social care services.

The city council has a seven-bed respite unit for adults with learning disabilities and four day centres but no long-stay residential homes. The city council’s facilities are not part of the county council’s review. The city council was asked if it had similar plans for people with learning disabilities but no one was available to comment.