Six-month reprieve for Irthlingborough's National Autistic Day Centre but campaigners plead 'find the funding'
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Campaigners battling to save care services for some of the most severely autistic adults in the county say their joy at a day centre staying open has been short-lived.
Members of SID – Save Irthlingborough Day Centre – had been euphoric after an agreement between North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) and the National Autistic Society (NAS).
A six-month reprieve had been brokered to deliver care for 25 adults with autism after the Diamond Centre day centre was threatened with closure following a funding row.
But SID founder Diane Jones – whose son Elliott attends the NAS day centre in Irthlingborough – said she feels they are ‘back to square one’ after meeting with a council officer.
She said: “There’s no permanent solution – it’s only up to six months. Over the weekend we have been really happy but after this new meeting it’s back to square one.”
On Friday, the two organisations announced a six-month extension to the statutory service paid for by NNC.
Cllr Jason Smithers, leader of NNC, said: “Following a meeting this week with senior staff from the National Autistic Society, I am pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement where the National Autistic Society will extend the services they provide across North Northamptonshire for six months.
“Both organisations remain committed to working together to identify a more permanent, long term solution for service users.
“Our priority has always been those who use these services and their families and to ensure they are receiving the right care in the appropriate setting. So, I am pleased that we will be working closely with those impacted to identify the most suitable route forward and that the process is a positive and smooth one.”
Also attending the meeting was Steven Rose, managing director for adult services at the National Autistic Society.
He said: “We are delighted that we have reached an agreement with NNC to continue to deliver care for the people we support for another six months. This means that our Northants services will not close at the end of this year.
“This is excellent news for the continuity of care for all the people we support who use our services. In the coming months we will continue to work with NNC to find a more permanent solution for these services.
“We remain sorry that the people we support, their families and our staff had to go through the process of cancelling contracts and issuing notice to close the services, but sadly we had been left with no choice. We do not underestimate the distress this has caused the people we support and their families. We would like to thank North Northamptonshire Council for working with us to ensure we can continue to provide care in our much-needed services for the next six months.”
NNC will now put out to tender for the day centre’s services but Mrs Jones said she wasn’t reassured that a suitable provider would be found to run the service for their ‘children’ with complex needs. She said that the fight for funding would go on.
She said: “The fight goes on. They need to find the funding. I cannot see how this can be allowed to carry on. These places have a duty of care but it seems that no-one is thinking of our children as people. Is there no way that the centre can be run by the government? The council and the NAS don’t think of the off-spins of this absolute cock-up.
"It’s going to cost a hell of a lot more if our children have to go into residential care and the parents are ill.
”Nobody seems to be able to pick it up and look at it from the human point of view.”