PROPOSALS to close two of Hounslow's four day care centres are a 'crisis waiting to happen', a leading charity is warning.
Jennie Whitford, of Hounslow Alzheimer's Society, claimed voluntary groups in the borough would be unable to 'pick up the pieces' if the move went ahead.
She was one of several charity leaders, along with concerned members of the public, to speak out at a heated public meeting about the closures last Friday (March 11). The impact (of these closures) on these individuals, their families, the community and you as a council will be severe," she told members of the health and adults care scrutiny panel.
"This is an absolute crisis waiting to happen. The resources currently available are so limited we can't pick up the pieces. The consultation has been faulty from the start."
Leaders of the charities Age Concern Hounslow and Crossroads Care also raised concerns about the impact of the closures and the way the consultation had been handled.
Angry carers and residents, meanwhile, suggested the closures were a 'done deal' because the resulting £790,000 savings for next year's budget had already been approved - albeit subject to consultation.
At the meeting it emerged:
Advocates for people with dementia were barred from attending an earlier meeting about the closure of Chiswick Day Centre, according to Ms Whitford. The council's community director Mimi Konigsberg said she was not aware of this.
Journey times for people travelling to the remaining centres could be as long as 90 minutes, according to Ms Whitford, possibly causing them great distress. She said the maximum recommended journey time is 40 minutes.
A council report claimed 55 per cent of people responding to a resident survey agreed with the closures, despite the fact the closures were not mentioned anywhere in that survey.
The consultation period was initially set at just four weeks, compared to the 'standard practice' of three months for a significant service change. It has since been extended to eight weeks.
GPs and charities including Age Concern and the Alzheimer's Society were not formally notified about the closures or invited to take part in the consultation.
Councillors voted on March 1 to approve cuts worth £18 million as part of the 2011/12 budget. These included closing Chiswick and Bedfont day centres, subject to ongoing consultation which ends on March 31.
Hounslow Council's community director Mimi Konigsberg said individual assessments were being conducted with all existing users, who would receive help finding alternative services.
"We're in a very difficult economic climate and I don't know that any council is happy with the choices they're having to make," she added.
According to the council's own figures, 121 people currently access dementia services at one of the four existing day centres. There would be just 52 places available at the remaining Heston and Roshni centres, leaving a potential shortfall of 59 places. Extra places could be provided at the new Sandbanks centre in Bedfont, though this would require additional funding.