Dr Christopher Mason accused the council of failing to consult with carers, or learn the lessons of past closures. His report also argues that unless there was a genuine attempt to work with carers and address their concerns, the move is bound to be viewed as cost-cutting.
Without affordable alternative provision, careers might have to give up their jobs or careers to become full time carers, he argues.
Last November Glasgow's executive director of social care services, David Crawford, recommended councillors approve a programme of closures of day centres across the city. Glasgow has 10 such day centres, providing a range of activities, a chance to socialise and a change of scene for adults with learning disabilities. However three have already been closed for 18 months as the council looked to rationalise and introduce personal budgets.
Now a further three are proposed for closure, which will leave just four day centres, one each for each of the four compass points of Scotland's largest local authority.
The plans were immediately controversial, with carers, service users and opposition councillors claiming not to have been consulted, and fears raised about what will replace the services currently provided by the centres.
These concerns were hardly eased by the council paper putting forward the proposals, which stated that many of those currently using the centres had not been assessed under current criteria and probably were not severely enough affected by their disabilities to receive a service, were they to be assessed as first-time users today.
At the same time the council is critical of the value of its own day centre provision, pointing out many disabled people spend almost as much time travelling to the centres as they do at them. Critics of day centres argue the activities on offer can be old-fashioned, unimaginative and even patronising.
Meanwhile the council also says the closures remain only proposals –not a fait accomplit – and that it is now consulting over them.
The hard-hitting report from Dr Mason will be presented to a special meeting of the city's Carers Reference Group on January 16.
It claims the council has not provided sufficient information about what alternatives will be on offer to those who will lose out if the closures take place, or how much those alternatives will cost.
Dr Mason describes the changes as the first important test of his position. "The consultation on these proposals provides the first important test of the new arrangements for consulting carers," he writes in his report, adding that the majority of carers do not back them in their current form.
However, he argues carers could be given more information. As three centres have already closed, reducing the overall numbers attending day centres by 300 in the last 18 months, it should be possible to see what their experience has been.
The council does not appear to have looked, he says. "It does not tell us how these carers and families have been affected by the change. A major reform should have provided this information, particularly because it is a matter of keen interest for carers."
The measure Dr Mason proposes for deciding whether to go ahead with the plans is a simple one, he says. Will they do more harm than good?
It might be that more fulfilling opportunities can be offered than day centres, for many people with learning disabilities, he adds. "But if they are to have confidence... carers need to know what alternative activities will be provided, they need to be confident their children and siblings will find them at least as fulfilling as attending a day centre, and they need to know they will be there and that they will be affordable." Instead, there is a lack of definite information, he says.
As a result, Dr Mason's paper suggests carers demand a six-month moratorium on the decision, to allow for an independent review group to look at learning disability services in the round. Unless other concerns raised by carers in the city are addressed, including housing problems, transport, availability of respite care, and the plight of older carers, the city's social work department will not be seen as acting in good faith and the personalisation policy will inevitably be seen as seen as simply a way to ration scarce resources, he argues.
Dr Mason said he believed carers would be responsive to concerns about cost, if their views were taken seriously. "The council could say please take the issue of money seriously and carers will say 'yes, if you please listen to what we tell you about what is useful and what isn't'."
Such an approach could transform perceptions of the council, he claimed. "The only way to save real money will be with the wholehearted support of carers. We are a long way from that at the moment."
Ian Hood, of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, described Dr Mason's contribution as very helpful and said carers and service users were not convinced modernisation of services would leave them with a better service. "Part of the reason that people still value day centres is the sense of community, friendship and purpose that they gain," he said. "By closing down a valued service, choice is taken from people to access a service they think is best.
"Personalisation can be also be about choosing to retain an existing service. This is a legitimate choice and should be supported."
The city council says it is listening to feedback about its proposals, but said Dr Mason's report had not taken into account its plans for nine local area co-ordinators. These posts are currently more advanced in other local authority areas, but Glasgow said they would be essential to developing alternative opportunities for daytime activities in the community.
A spokesman added: "We welcome this contribution from Dr Mason and the points he makes in his report will be carefully considered as part of the overall consultation."
Other stakeholders will also be given a chance to have their say before a final report is prepared for the council's executive committee, he said. "We would hope their views can be given at meetings already scheduled for this month to ensure the council receives the broadest possible range of responses.
"It is anticipated that a decision by councillors will now be taken in March."
– Dr Christopher Mason
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