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Council to decide plans to transform learning disability support

Published: 5 October 2022

We will be discussing plans next week to transform support for people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic to help them lead safe, fulfilled lives in their community. 


Cabinet will be asked to consider a report on proposed changes to day services designed to create support that enables people to lead the lives they choose for themselves.

It follows a 12-week consultation with people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic who use - or have previously used - our day centres, their families and carers and members of the public.

Councillors will hear that if the planned changes went ahead support would focus on an individual’s strengths to give them valuable skills to fulfil their aspirations and play an active part in their community.

Fewer people are choosing to use our day centres says the report to be discussed - with two thirds of those with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic accessing alternative support.

Under the plans 4 day centres would remain open, recognising that some people with complex needs would continue to need the support provided by a building-based service. We pledge to provide transport for people who wish to continue using the centres.

Cabinet, which meets on Thursday 13 October 2022, will consider 2 options for the future of day services set out in the report. They are:

Option 1:

  • redesign services to move away from traditional building-based day services in favour of offering alternative opportunities
  • keep 4 day centres open - Alderbrook in Chinley, No Limits in Chesterfield, Parkwood in Alfreton and Outlook in Long Eaton - and relocate anyone that wanted to continue using them, providing transport to allow them to do this
  • expand our team of Community Connectors from 18 to 25 staff – they are trained to support people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic to explore opportunities that exist in their local communities
  • create a new 14-strong Support Service Team to provide intensive practical support to people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic and their families for up to 2 years to help them get used to the changes if they went ahead
  • work closely with independent, private and voluntary providers and other organisations to identify gaps in services and develop new opportunities that people say they want
  • a phased approach to discontinue the use of 8 day centres where there is a lack of demand and people have already relocated or are being supported to choose other opportunities.

Option 2:

  • continue to run all 12 day centres

Cabinet Member for Adult Care Councillor Natalie Hoy said:

“I recognise that for some people the prospect of change is unsettling, particularly where they have used a day centre for a long time.

“But for far too long we have offered a one-size-fits-all approach to day services that don’t take in to account people’s wishes and aspirations for their own lives. We want to make sure the services we offer focus on their strengths to achieve personal goals.

“We’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of people using our day centres, with some of our buildings having very small numbers of users each week. Younger people are choosing to access different activities and opportunities.

“But we recognise that people have formed strong friendships and relationships while attending our centres which is why - among our pledges to people if these plans go ahead – there is a commitment to ensure these are supported to continue.

“We have also pledged that if the proposed changes to the service were agreed, anyone who wanted to continue using one of our centres could do so and we’d provide transport to enable them to do that.

“By transforming our service, we will be able to reinvest money in to creating the types of day opportunities that people with learning disabilities and/or who are autistic are telling us they want to help them lead more independent and fulfilled lives.”

A total of 831 people took part in the consultation either by attending face-to-face or virtual meetings, filling in the online questionnaire or by writing or emailing the council directly.

Taking on board feedback received during the consultation, the report says an additional 4 learning disability and autism advisors would be employed to support people through the changes if they went ahead.

Dedicated workers would also ensure people are helped to maintain friendships and relationships developed at day centres by planning activities and developing links with groups in the local area.

The report also says that support would be given to people who currently use Whitemoor Day Centre in Belper to help them adjust to a merger with Parkwood 7 miles away if the plans were given the go-ahead.

The council has also been approached by established local groups who have expressed an interest in working with the authority to create community spaces, particularly the garden centres, which would be inclusive and accessible to all.