Bow disability centre must let staff go amid fears for the future

A Bow day centre which cares for people with severe physical and mental disabilities is letting ten staff go and reemploying all others on short-term contracts in response to council measures.

Helpers at the Bangladeshi Parents and Carers Association are unsure what service they will be able to provide to their 39 members, who can have conditions including autism and Down’s syndrome, in a month’s time.

It demonstrates concerns among front-line staff about Tower Hamlets council shifting to a new system of personal budgets, which will mean funds go directly to “service users”.

Shamimara Choudhury, 37, the centre manager, said: “It’s been really hard.

“We can only see what will happen after April and then work out what kind of service we can provide.

“Will we have to start charging for lunches or for transportation?”

The charity in St Margaret’s House in Old Ford Road previously got a �110,000 block contract from the council every quarter to go towards features like its sensory room, its IT room and art facilities.

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But with just six of its members likely to know their own personal budgets by the end of the month, Ms Choudhury is worried.

She said: “Nothing is clear.

“The aim is to make people more independent, but how can you do that if a person has mental health problems or if they are wheelchair bound?

“They can’t be left on their own.”

The council is cutting �1.4 million over the next three years from an annual �5.1 million learning disability budget but says “personalisation” will allow users to pick how they spend their time “rather than just be sent to a service because it has been arranged for them by the council.”

A spokesman also said there would be a “period of transition” in moving from block contracts to personal budgets to minimise any adverse financial impact on providers.