Mar 7 2011 By Liam Murphy
WIRRAL Council’s controversial plan to shut five care and respite homes has been dealt a blow after solicitors acting for a user obtained an injunction against it.
Lawyers acting for a man who uses one of the respite homes said they had obtained an injunction against the closure of Fernleigh until a hearing on March 16.
By Friday evening, Wirral Council said they had not received word of the injunction, but said they were aware of the bid to have a judicial review of the closure plans.
The plans are for the closure of care and respite centres Mapleholme, Pensall, Poulton, Meadowcroft and Fernleigh by March 31.
Steve Hornby, from Eastham, had engaged solicitors Irwin Mitchell, in Manchester, after he said the council’s plans would damage the respite care he has received since 1998 for a bipolar disorder.
Mr Hornby, 39, said: "We had a so-called consultation on the closure on January 17, although it was not actually a consultation. A director turned up to say that from March 31 the service would no longer exist."
He said he was aware of several other service users becoming extremely upset over the council’s plans.
A spokesman for solicitors Irwin Mitchell, David Shirt, said they had "successfully got an injunction against the care home closure before a hearing on March 16".
Although Wirral Council said by late Friday it had not received "no notification" of the injunction, cabinet member for social care and inclusion, Bob Moon, said: "We have just received notice of the judicial review and will contest it robustly.
"The department of adult social services has made it clear that it is totally committed to ensuring that all people who use care services continue to have their needs met. The level of support that people receive will not change.
"The only change is that they will have a wider choice of who provides their support and access to services that are currently not available to them.
"Any subsequent changes to individual support plans would be subject to a tailored review, with full participation from the person receiving the service.
"The council is fully aware of its legal responsibilities and will continue to arrange support for those people who need it through contracts with independent and voluntary providers, rather than through the council’s own, in-house service.
"The council has a statutory duty to monitor standards to ensure that they are maintained, and wherever possible improved.
"Although the services will be delivered by contractors, this duty will remain and the council will still be heavily involved with residential and respite care." "The council is already using providers from the independent and voluntary sector to deliver some of its services and knows from experience that it works well for people.
"The Care Quality Commission’s latest inspection report into Adult Social Services, concluded that the quality of care provided by Wirral’s independent and voluntary sector is greater than in other areas of the North West.
"We are currently out to tender for these contracts and have confirmed that the capacity is there. It is the council’s belief that there is more than sufficient expertise and capacity within the independent and voluntary sectors to meet the needs of people in Wirral.
"The decision to cease providing respite and crisis support through in-house services is not solely based on the outcome of the ‘Wirral’s Future’ consultation. We have been consulting on the future of care services since early 2009.
"The ‘Towards a Care Services Strategy’ consulted widely with people who use services and their carers and families, as well as professionals and partner organisations. There has also been extensive consultation with the independent and voluntary sector throughout 2010, which further reinforces the Council’s view that the market is both mature and responsive to assessed needs.
"The council appreciates that some people may have concerns about the changes, and whilst many people have welcomed the move towards a more personalised and flexible approach, they are concerned about the speed of change.
"The Department of Adult Social Services is providing individual support to all people who use services, as well as their carers and families, to help them through the changes and ensure that they have choice and control over how their particular needs are met in the future."