Strawford services

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LAST week’s article headlined ‘Care cuts...’ will have left many people misinformed about the changes in service provision for people with learning difficulties. I would be grateful for an opportunity to put the record straight.

The changes we have made to establish more community-based services are not just about saving money. They are being driven by the ambition articulated in the Government’s ‘Valuing People’ policy.

Put simply that is about recognising that many people with a learning difficulty want to lead ordinary lives and do the things that most people take for granted. That means being out in the community rather than based in a day centre.

Your article contrasted the services provided by the Strawford Centre and the Horizons Service. The former continues to cater for people with a high level of needs in a specialist day centre setting. The latter supports customers to be out and about interacting with other people.

The service that customers receive is based on an assessment of their needs, which can, of course, change over time.

The Horizons group meet in a variety of settings including the library, town centre cafes, church halls and other public buildings. They are actively involved in a number of stimulating activities and supported with college placements. They also take part in voluntary work like maintaining the hanging baskets at several railway stations in return for free travel.

It is not appropriate for me to comment on the many inaccuracies in the claims made by Mrs Edwards as it is not right to discuss individual cases in the press. However, I must correct her comments about staffing at Strawford Centre. It is wrong to talk about unqualified staff. All staff are supported to undertake training and gain qualifications.

Over the years we have altered the balance between instructors and care staff. This is a response to the fact that customers are living longer with more complex needs so we have increased the number of support workers. We continue to offer a variety of activities including dance, swimming, cooking, education, arts and crafts, drama and exercise.

I should like to reassure your readers that there is no question of winding down the Strawford Centre. In West Sussex we are totally committed to providing a range of services that support people to lead busy, fulfilling lives. We are also fortunate in having a skilled and caring workforce dedicated to giving people with learning difficulties the same rights and choices as everyone else.

AMANDA ROGERS

Director of Adults’ Services,

West Sussex County Council

County Hall, Chichester