Councillor claims mentally ill residents in Cambridge are being “hounded out” of centre
- Credit: Archant
A councillor has alleged mentally ill residents of The Haven are being “hounded out of their home and bullied into leaving” by social workers to allow the council to close the centre.
Other councillors at the committee pressed Cllr Amanda Taylor on whether she could provide evidence or had raised the issue outside of the meeting.
The service director adults and safeguarding, Charlotte Black, said she knew of no such complaints.
Cllr Mark Goldsack said he was "horrified" and also called for the claims to be substantiated.
Cllr Taylor responded by saying she had heard the claims from the residents and their families and had raised the issue with officers.
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She also said she met with the chief executive of the council over concerns for the welfare of one of the residents.
The comments were made at a meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council's adults committee, where Conservative councillors agreed not to renew the contract for The Haven mental health supported accommodation service.
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Opposition Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors voted against the decision.
The Haven, in Wulfstan Way, Cambridge, provides accommodation and support for up to eight residents with severe mental health issues, which costs the council £169,000 a year.
The service will now end on July 31, and arrangements will be made with Cambridge Housing to provide a reduced level of support from staff based at nearby Dunstan Court.
The council does not own the building, and committee chair, Anna Bailey, and officers said it was not within the council's power to close the centre, and denied that was the action being taken.
Although the committee did approve plans to explore the option of using the building to provide accommodation for young people with learning disabilities.
Cllr Taylor expressed frustration at having been assured previously it would not be closed, and said: "In order to close this service you don't have to put a sign up you just have to stop nurturing it and I'm afraid that's what has happened with The Haven."
She said removing 24/7 staffing, including leaving the centre unstaffed at night, is putting the residents "in a very risky situation and risks them coming to harm".
"I say to this committee if anything serious happened because you didn't have care at night time that the council would be guilty of negligence," she said.
Cllr Bailey said she could not understand the claim the council was closing the service when residents would continue to live there under the new arrangements.
Addressing the allegations of bullying Cllr Bailey said: "You said residents have articulated directly to you that they felt hounded and bullied and pushed out of the service.
"When they said that, if I was the local member and somebody was saying something as strong as that to me I would take it up with adult social care officers because that is a very serious complaint."
Speaking after the meeting she said "it is an allegation against council social workers" and said it was "inappropriate" for the councillor not to have raised the concern in a more official capacity when she was first made aware of the issue.
Justifying the changes to the service in the meeting, Cllr Bailey said The Haven had been "deemed by social workers to be inappropriate and unable to be adapted to be suitable for the changing needs of some of the residents".
Cllr Taylor responded saying the argument for closure seemed to change every time the issue is raised.
She also said officers' claims there had been no referrals for the last two years was because the council deliberately stopped them.
"The demand has been suppressed," she said. The officers said that was not the case.
Ms Black said after the meeting she was confident in the behaviour of all of her staff, and if a complaint of that nature was raised it would be taken "very seriously".
"Everything I have seen about the way in which the social workers have conducted themselves in relation to The Haven means I am confident they are doing a good job," she said.
Cambridgeshire County Council said "no issues or complaints regarding bullying have been received from residents at The Haven or from councillors".
A spokesperson said: "We are committed to ensuring that the wellbeing and needs of the residents at The Haven are met.
"This includes making sure support arrangements are in place for each individual and although the support provider will be changing at the end of July we are confident that the new provider will meet all the needs of any residents who remain at the service.
"We are continuing to review these arrangements to ensure that the most appropriate support is offered to each individual."