Care users left in the dark about cuts

Sunday, 28 January 2024 19:26

By Martyn Smith, Local Democracy Reporter

Users of a centre for people with complex medical needs have been kept in the dark about cuts according to campaigners.

A meeting of Dudley Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee was told staff at the Unicorn Centre in Amblecote, near Stourbridge, had been instructed not to talk about proposed changes to services.

The centre is being lined up for cuts and possible closure as part of the authority’s budget for the next financial year. Campaigners claim users of the Unicorn, which specialises in helping people with severe learning difficulties, only learned of the plan from press reports.

Ken McClymont, from the Dudley Centre for inclusive Living, told the meeting on January 25: “We were contacted by a service user and she was quite concerned to learn of it, when she approached staff at the centre they had been told not to discuss or disclose it.

“Surely it’s beneficial for all to know about these proposals as soon as possible so that families and their cared-for can make necessary preparations and changes or is there some kind of underhand plan to prevent those from knowing about it who will be most affected.

“It seems to me there is a small group of people here who cost a lot of money and who may be seen as less troublesome to deal with than a larger group of people suffering a cut.”

Mr McClymont added cuts may backfire if service users needed more expensive residential care as an alternative. Committee chairman, Cllr Ian Kettle, defended the instruction to Unicorn staff. He said:

“Any changes that go forward in the budget aren’t legal as yet, they have got to go through full council therefore anything that goes on at the moment is only hearsay.

“Until it goes through full council it isn’t legal, that’s the reason for the confidentiality.  We do need to work that way, especially when other organisations and business interests are involved.”

Dudley Council is proposing a cut of £460,000 to the centre’s spending and has not ruled out complete closure. The council will make a final decision on the 2024/25 budget on March 4.


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