The consultation period with families using Girtrell Court respite care home comes to an end this week.
Several large protests were held outside Wallasey Town Hall as campaigners fought to save the centre from the axe.
Wirral Council cabinet member for adult care and public health Cllr Christine Jones explains why the Labour administration made the decision to close the Saughall Massie-based facility.
THIRTY-FIVE years ago, when I first qualified as a nurse, the provision of care was reasonably straight forward.
Fresh out of nursing school, I went straight to work in our local hospital.
My training was supported by the state, my employer was the NHS and the hospital where we cared for the sick and the vulnerable was owned, managed and run for the benefit of local people.
Since then, the provision of health and social services has fundamentally changed, and today, care comes from a range of providers where the state, through local authorities, is simply the commissioning body.
Here in Wirral, our hospitals and medical centres are now run by trusts, GPs own their own surgeries, and adult care homes are privately operated.
Wirral Council's statutory obligation to support vulnerable people with care needs still remains, but it is now about offering more personalised support services and greater choice for residents and their families.
Over the past ten years, Wirral Council like many other local authorities, has stopped directly providing the majority of care services for a number of reasons.
In 2010 the Conservative-led council made the decision to re-provide care, believing the private sector to be a better choice for services.
We opposed what we believed was the unnecessary haste of those closures.
Since then, we have seen increasing demands for a wider range of different care services and, consequently, we now face a different challenge.
Earlier this month, council voted to re-provide the respite services currently offered at Girtrell Court.
This facility has offered residents a much-valued break from caring for their sons, daughters and family members with disabilities.
Our commitment to providing that support has never wavered, but the type of support being demanded is changing.
Today, residents are requesting specialist holiday centres, higher levels of support at home, assistance with direct payments and more specialist solutions.
For those who still want more traditional residential facilities, they are asking about more age-appropriate offers and centres in different locations.
Simply stated - the range of needs and requests can no longer be met at our one local authority-run centre.
When we look at the scope of facilities available elsewhere and the choice of services on offer, Girtrell Court is no longer always the most appropriate.
Yet, because the council owns its own respite care facility, we are obliged to place residents there and our entire budget for respite care is tied up in one building.
Over the past 12 weeks we have been in consultation with the families who use the respite services to discuss the choices and options available to them. In those conversations we have learned a lot.
We have spoken to families who already use other service providers as well as Girtrell Court.
We have heard from families who are looking for more age appropriate solutions for their elderly or young relatives, and we have listened to the views of respite care users about how to make these changes with the minimum disruption.
One of the decisions we have made after listening and meeting with the families is to continue to offer respite services at Girtrell Court through the end of August 2016.
Families told us they wanted the security of knowing what their respite care support for this summer was going to be, and also wanted the very practical option of being able to go ahead and book their own travel and holiday plans now to get the benefit of early discounts and availability.
This common sense approach will also allow our council officers time to get all of the new services needed in place for the autumn.
It is a shame this important consultation has taken place against a backdrop of political electioneering.
I am disappointed that some have looked to score political points during this process, and in some instances, the manner of the debate and discussion has failed to meet the high standards Wirral residents rightly expect of their elected representatives.
I won’t get dragged into the name-calling and posturing adopted by others, I imagine they will be judged by their constituents in the future.
I am grateful for the opportunity offered through the Wirral Globe to inform residents of the facts and reasoning behind the headlines.
The consultation with families is now drawing to a close.
The officers are making the required arrangements to give respite care users their preferred alternative choices and begin the process of transferring our services over.
While this will be a process of change for the residents and council employees, we are committed to providing the widest possible range of services and living up to our pledge of protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.