Protestors want to keep the Ludlow Road short break centre open
Parents of disabled children were let down by Worcestershire County Council, according to a stinging report by the authority’s own watchdog.
The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Board heard a report by Councillor Fran Oborski, who has chaired a scrutiny of the way the council consulted parents whose children have short-breaks at a number of centres in the county on the future of the service.
One centre, Ludlow Road in Kidderminster, might be closed, and the council started talking to families about the service in late 2017.
The report by Cllr Oborski’s all-party group said: “The Task Group heard from parents about their concerns in respect of a lack of openness and clarity and general confusion about the Consultation, which has aroused suspicion that the decision has been pre-determined.”
The report said the decision on the future of the centres should be made in a public meeting of the council’s cabinet, not just by the cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Andy Roberts. Councillor Oborski added: “That would allow the public to come and speak about this.”
The report was very critical of how parents using Ludlow Road had been treated – saying the council’s consultation document “appeared to have been drafted without a clear understanding of the needs of the children already accessing the services.
“In particular the very specific needs of the children attending Ludlow Road did not appear to have been fully understood. Parents and carers had not been involved in drawing up the proposals and expressed their shock at first hearing of the proposed changes just before Christmas.”
It added that speaking to the parents earlier could have avoided this distress.
It also said that the families using other units, who were told of the consultation after those using Ludlow Road, felt they weren’t given enough time before the consultation: “Life for them requires precise planning, particularly when organising a much-needed break. The short timescales caused additional stress and anxiety, which we believe could have been lessened with a longer time period in which to digest some unpalatable proposals.”
The report said the consultation was carried out in a “haphazard and confused way” and said a decision made on the basis of it “could be subject to a further challenge.”
Chairman of the performance board Councillor Chris Bloore said: “I’d like to apologise on the record to parents for the decision to write to them just before Christmas. That was simply unforgivable.”
The report was endorsed by the committee unanimously