Closure plans for Chichester day centre ‘heartbreaking’

The Wrenford Centre in Terminus Road, Chichester, is one of the locations where day services for adults with learning disabilities may be stopped
The Wrenford Centre in Terminus Road, Chichester, is one of the locations where day services for adults with learning disabilities may be stopped

‘Heartbreaking’ plans to close a Chichester day centre for adults with learning disabilities have been opposed by families of users.

West Sussex County Council is currently consulting on the future of its in-house adult social care services.

As part of the proposals the Wrenford Centre, in Terminus Road, a day centre for adults with learning disabilities, could close.

Users would access services at Chestnuts in Bognor Regis and Judith Adams in Chichester, both day centres for the elderly, instead.

The county council said it understands this can be an unsettling time for users, their families and carers, but plans ‘will not see any reductions in levels of service’.

Julie Barker-Muzzell’s sister Jackie, 54, from West Wittering, who has profound learning disabilities, has used the Wrenford Centre for more than 30 years.

Julie described the proposals as ‘heartbreaking’, adding: “It just seems madness to contemplate closing when they have these amazing facilities.”

These include a sensory room, dining hall, computer room, cookery room and ‘Starburst’ arts studio.

She praised the dedicated staff but raised concerns about users being unsettled by changes, the accessibility of other locations, and called for the Wrenford Centre to be kept open and invested in.

She added: “It simply makes no sense to close Wrenford, which we must remember was built specifically for the needs for adults with learning disabilities. It functions efficiently.

“I personally know Wrenford very well indeed and regularly witness, first hand, how happy, fulfilled and settled service users are – put quite simply ‘it works’.

“It seems absolutely ludicrous to contemplate closure. For the vast majority of users, Wrenford is like a second home – please don’t let it be taken away.”

Sarah Welch’s 19-year-old son Matthew, who has learning difficulties, studies four days a week at Chichester College but spends the remaining weekday at the Wrenford Centre.

Sarah, who lives in Barnham, said: “He absolutely loves it there. We feel absolutely devastated about the pending closure. It just seems illogical.”

She added: “It does not make any sense to be whittling away services. We need to be expanding them rather than cutting them.”

John Symonds’ daughter Tania, 40, has Downs Syndrome and has attended The Wrenford Centre for more than 20 years.

John, who lives in Bognor Regis with his family, said: “Her attendance at Wrenford provides us with day-to-day respite for a few hours, whilst we look after her for the rest of the time.

“She is a delightful person; funny, talented in her own way (she has won prizes for her artworks and photography - made possible by Wrenford), affectionate and a joy to be around.”

He described how he and his wife are ‘disappointed, angry and confused’ by proposals to close the centre which he branded ‘totally illogical’ given estimated increases in service user numbers over the next 20 years.

While the centre provides excellent facilities the fabric of the building needs investment with a new roof, rewiring, a new central heating system and redecoration all required.

He said: “A far more sensible solution would be to use the currently underutilised facilities of The Judith Adams and Chestnuts centres as a short-term relocation solution for the current Wrenford service users whilst Wrenford is properly renovated.

“Once that is complete, both the Judith Adams and Chestnuts could re-establish themselves as dementia care centres for the proposed increase in that sector over the next 20 years.”

A county council spokesman said: “We understand that this can be an unsettling time for people who use the Wrenford day service, their families and carers.

“We are actively seeking feedback to the proposals and encourage people to share their views with us.

“The planned changes for this service form part of wider proposals to support people to live independently and to take part in community-based activities where appropriate.

“Whilst we recognise that the Wrenford service is well used it is currently situated within an industrial estate on the outskirts of Chichester which means people don’t have easy access to activities and opportunities where they live.

“While costs do play a role in the proposals, our priority remains that we support our most vulnerable residents. The plans will not see any reduction in levels of service.

“We would urge people to give us their feedback on the proposals prior to the closing date of our survey on 31 May 2018.”

Visit the council’s website.

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