AN angry mother says council bosses have turned her son’s world “upside down” with a shake-up of daycare services.
Sean Howard is deaf and suffers from Down’s syndrome, but his mother, Jacqueline Howard, says he has been separated from his circle of friends because of South Tyneside Council’s revamp.
Mr Howard, 41, had been attending Ocean Road Community Centre in South Shields, along with others with learning difficulties, but the group has been disbanded as part of a review of day centre services in the borough.
Instead of going to Ocean Road, Sean is now collected four times a week from his home in Ada Street, South Shields, and taken to various facilities across the borough.
It’s a change which his mother claims has “taken his social life away”.
She says that, without daily contact with friends and staff at Ocean Road, Sean has been left “more isolated”.
Mrs Howard has also condemned the council for failing to consult the families of those affected by the change.
She said: “Most people of Sean’s age might go to the pub to socialise and meet friends.
“Ocean Road was the place where Sean socialised and it was such a tight community. He practically grew up with the people there.
“His world has been turned upside down
“He got on so well with the staff.
“It was like a family. Everyone is so unhappy that the group has gone.” South Tyneside Council is closing and relocating several day centres in a bid to save money and make services “more flexible”.
Central to the change is the creation of a community hub – to be based at the new Central Library planned for the Wouldhave House site in South Shields.
Service users will be directed from the hub to facilities and activities that “best suit their needs” within the community.
Mrs Howard believes that approach is “completely wrong”.
She said: “What’s the point of this hub? It doesn’t take into account that the day centres are like a second home to people who attend them. They are happy and comfortable there.
“They don’t want to be taken here, there and everywhere.”
Sean now attends various centres during the week, including Trinity House at Laygate for drama, and the allotments at Holder House in South Shields.
Mrs Howard added: “At this hub they might say they will take Sean to play bowling, but I can do that!
“What they need is somewhere they can mix with people in a comfortable environment.
“The council has made a big deal about consulting everyone, but I was never consulted.
“I believe they knew what they wanted from the start and they have just pushed ahead with it.
“Nothing was going to change their minds.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The changes being made to the existing services were the result of a long consultation process, which showed substantial support for this new model.
“With a great number of councils up and down the country closing resources, South Tyneside Council is trying to protect its services for the future – making them a better quality, more sustainable and cost-effective.
“We understand that change can be unsettling for people, but we will continue to work closely with individuals to make the moves as smooth as possible.”