400 families in Milton Keynes still have no idea when day care centres will open

    Some 400 families still have no idea when day centres will be re-opening as the council has declined to set a date.

    Day centres used by people with learning disabilities and dementia closed at the start of lockdown in March and Milton Keynes Council this week came under pressure to re-open them.

    Paul Ridley, whose son Keith has severe autism, told a meeting that his son had gone into “meltdown” because of the change of routine.

    “We are still in lockdown,” Mr Ridley, from Wolverton, told the health and adult social care scrutiny committee. “We don’t have a car, our son won’t get on a bus, train, or taxi.”

    He called for services to be re-opened and for a review of the service so that if there is another wave of infection, mistakes “won’t happen again”.

    “We don’t want to go through seeing our son just melt in front of us,” he said. Mr Ridley’s was one of six questions put to the committee on Wednesday.

    The council’s director of adult services, Victoria Collins, said she was “very aware that it has been incredibly difficult for users of day care services.

    “But we are now planning what services we can provide to focus on those most in need,” she said.

    The committee was told that the council has not received specific guidance but was working with Government social distancing advice.

    That means making changes to buildings, planning entry and exit, and how to keep people safe.

    Some people with learning difficulties and dementia did not understand social distancing and were at higher risk from coronavirus, the committee heard.

    Ms Collins added: “There are still very real risks, and we have to be mindful of that. Our plans have to be robust but we will continue to plan and will be talking to you very shortly.”

    Officials rejected criticism that they have been slower than other councils.

    But Cllr Marie Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) queried why “some of these people could go to the pub, but not to day centres”. She added that the Government wants day centres to open.

    “How long is it going to take? Can we have a date for the re-opening?,” she asked.

    Ms Collins said: “I can’t give you a date but in terms of the planning we are very actively planning for that.

    “We want to avoid opening and then having to close again. This is not a short term issue, it is with us for the foreseeable future.”

    And Cllr Hannah O’Neill (Lab, Woughton & Fishermead) the council’s head of health and wellbeing said: “There is still a huge, huge risk. We absolutely have to get this right and take the time.”

    The committee agreed to ask the council’s cabinet to come up with a plan for the re-opening of day centres and give an update in two weeks’ time.

    They also agreed to write a letter to the city’s two MPs to push the Government to provide guidance.

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