Carers left furious as decision on closure of Hayling Island respite centre for disabled adults is delayed until autumn

FURIOUS carers who rallied to learn the fate of a ‘vital’ respite centre for disabled adults have hit out after the decision on its potential closure was pushed back until the autumn.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 5:31 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 6:55 pm
Parents and carers outside the Hampshire County Council offices, following the meeting on Orchard Close's future this week. Picture: Save Orchard Close

After months of campaigning parents had expected to learn which way the axe would fall on Orchard Close, on Hayling Island, at a crunch meeting on Wednesday. 

But instead of having her final say, Hampshire County Council’s executive member for Adult Social Care and Health, councillor Liz Fairhurst, enforced a delay until at least September. 

The move not only angered activists, but some councillors sat on the committee – who she told just minutes before the meeting started would be ‘gagged’ using a constitutional action and rendered unable to respond to five ‘heartfelt’ deputations from carers.

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Adrian Locke’s 37-year-old daughter, Claire, has cerebral palsy and learning difficulties and has been a service user at Orchard Close for more than a decade. 

‘I was totally disgusted,' the 64-year-old said. 

‘My wife and I gave deputations with three others and it made them totally pointless. It was clear Liz Fairhurst had already made up her mind about delaying the decision. 

‘Orchard Close is absolutely vital to my family and closure should’ve been off the table at that meeting.' 

Just over a fortnight ago the council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee voted unanimously against closing Orchard Close, after a public consultation found 96.4 per cent of 479 respondents were against it. 

But despite its future now being safe for at least six months, campaigners say they have been left in the dark – with no exact date for further action set.

Dave Humphries, whose 21-year-old stepson Joe has a severe global development delay and attends Orchard Close, said: ‘Because they haven't taken closure off the table and the time frame is open-ended we don’t know what’s going to happen or when it will. We have got to assume the worst.

‘It’s an appalling decision that did not take into account the ongoing stress and anxiety that the proposal is causing both carers and service users.’ 

Hampshire councillors David Harrison and Mike Thornton will write to the authority early next week, in a constitutional move which will trigger another decision day meeting.

It comes after Cllr Harrison stormed out of Wednesday’s meeting when ‘it became clear Cllr Fairhurst was not going to take any questions’. 

‘I was absolutely appalled by the decision not to take any questions,’ he said.

‘I hope this time Cllr Fairhurst will not be able to block anyone making a statement.’ 

Responding, Cllr Fairhurst said she exercised what carers branded a ‘gag’ because she thought all councillors’ questions ‘had already been answered’. 

‘Members who were there were all members on the scrutiny committee who came up with the recommendations not to close Orchard Close,' she said. 

‘We made the decision to delay because we want to find a way to keep it open so those service users and their carers can continue using it.’