ALL options for a base for a service supporting adults with learning disabilities will be kept under consideration now a council has accepted the findings of an independent review.
The report into Monmouthshire council’s My Day, My Life service reported in April and found shortcomings in how it operates, including limited activities available to service users, and said it should have “safe and accessible buildings” to use as a base.
That was seen as a victory for campaigners who since the end of last year have battled the council over the closure of the Tudor Centre in Abergavenny which had been a base for the service, since it started in 2014, and for many years before that a day centre serving vulnerable adults in the community until its closure at the start of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.
Monmouthshire’s Labour cabinet announced at the end of November last year it intended to sell the centre, in Tudor Street, and dismissed a day centre as “outdated” while it had also commissioned the independent review. Council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby later apologised for the way the closure had been announced without consultation and promised its future wouldn’t be decided until after the review had reported.
The cabinet accepted the findings of the review when it met on July 26 and Green Party councillor Ian Chandler, who joined the cabinet in May and took responsibility for social care, said the next step will be to meet with service users and families during August to consider potential bases.
As well as the Tudor Centre the council has suggested Abergavenny Community Centre and the Melville Theatre while the Bridges Centre, the Monnow Vale Health and Social Care facility and Overmonnow Family Learning Centre are all listed as potential locations for a further base in Monmouth.
Cllr Chandler said the intention is the two proposed bases will be put to the cabinet in September. When he outlined that timetable to the council’s scrutiny committee in July the meeting was abandoned after a campaigner continued to question why the council isn’t simply re-opening the Tudor Centre, with Cllr Chandler having said he wanted to move “at pace”.
At the cabinet meeting the leader of the Conservative opposition, Cllr Richard John, said from following the scrutiny meeting and speaking with campaigners he was aware there is still a “significant level of concern” in the community.
He said: “I’ve met the campaigners several times I don’t think their arguments are an ‘emotional’ connection to a building (the Tudor Centre), I think they have a really strong case for re-opening it.”
He said when in opposition Cllr Chandler was “very clear” the centre should re-open and asked: “Is that still your view?”
Cllr Chandler said he recalled he’d said he believed the centre should have re-opened “at the end of the pandemic” but the council is now in a position where it is considering it along with the two other buildings and potentially others that may be suggested by service users.
“If the Tudor Centre comes out as the best option then we will need to press ahead with opening it as soon as possible, equally for any other building.”
He said the buildings will also need to meet the requirements identified by service users during the review.
Cllr Chandler also said he didn’t accept a suggestion made at the scrutiny committee, by Llanelly Hill independent Cllr Simon Howarth, that the Tudor Centre could be opened “within a matter of days”.
He asked council property officer Nick Keys to give an assessment to the cabinet who said some work may be required and basic checks would have to be made.
Cllr Chandler said: “To go back three years as if Covid never happened – that’s not possible.”
Independent Group leader Frances Taylor said she accepted “some checks and balances” would need to be done but said she understood Mr Keys had said the condition of the building isn’t restricting it from being re-opened.
Social services chief Jane Rogers said before the pandemic the Tudor Centre was only open sparodically, with some accessing My Day, My Life support in other ways or chosing other forms of support.
It was accepted by Cllr Chandler and Ms Rogers, in line with the review, the council has to improve how it “co-designs” services with those using them.
The cabinet was also told the review has also highlighted how greater training is needed for the staff working in the My Day, My Life service and that it needs to adapt to suit the needs of younger people who may wish to have support in the early evenings or weekends rather than in the traditional daytime hours.
The intention is to implement the review findings by March 2024.