Green light for day centres to go commercial

DAY centres could be run in a more commercial way after backing was given to proposals which could see them turned into social enterprises.

Northumberland County Council operate five day centres, including The Pottergate centre in Alnwick, for people with learning disabilities, and has three in-house horticultural skills units.

All have close links with their local communities, operate increasingly personalised services and carry out trading activities, including furniture recycling, sale of plants and fresh produce.

A number of options were tabled at the care and wellbeing scrutiny committee with recommendations that the services be run as part of a social enterprise, which would allow the services to build upon their commercial activities and grow commercially.

Daljit Lally, corporate director of adult services, said: “We currently have a total of 333 service users at our centres.

“As the council needs to look at efficiencies, year on year, within services it is likely that the scale of the in-house service provision would reduce over time with some centres having to be amalgamated to produce a smaller service.

“There are continuing changes in the population of people requiring support to help them move towards employment and day services need to evolve radically to meet these needs.”

The work at the centres, to date has shown that they have much to be proud of which includes development activities such as the Pottergate Pantry in Alnwick.

She added: “If it was decided that we were going down the social enterprise route, as part of our agreement all staff currently employed in the service units would transfer to become part of the new organisation with their existing terms and conditions.

“We will also ensure that both staff and service users were consulted at every stage.”

The report also received agreement of members for the existing trading activities currently standing at £115,000 to be earmarked to be used as start-up funding for the social enterprise.

If agreed the next stages will be for a report to go to the Council’s Executive on September 6 and an engagement process with staff and service users and their families.