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HIGH COURT RULING IN FAVOUR OF DAY CARE CENTRES CLOSURE

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Legal attempts to derail a major shake up of community care services for the mentally ill in Plymouth were today th...
Legal attempts to derail a major shake up of community care services for the mentally ill in Plymouth were today thrown out by a high court judge.

Lawyers had attacked as unlawful the city council's plans to shut down day care centres in Anstis Street and Camden Street, Plymouth, used by up to 200 people with mental health problems.

Mr Martin Westgate, representing one mentally ill man, said there had been no attempt to consult users and the council had 'closed its mind' to the possibility of keeping open the centres which are a vital lifeline to up to 200 people with mental health problems.

Arguing the closure decisions were 'resource led, not needs led', he said it had come as 'a shock' to users when the council announced in June that they would be shut down.

But Mr Justice Maurice Kay dealt users a serious blow when he dismissed the judicial review challenge on grounds that there had been an 'unjustifiable delay' in bringing the case to court.

The Anstis Street centre, which provided users with a range of therapeutic services, including art, pottery and woodwork was closed on August 29 and the larger Camden Street centre is being phased out with a view to closure in December or January next year, said Mr Westgate.

Most of the 'dedicated' services provided by the centres were to be replaced with 'mainstream' facilities at adult education colleges open to the general public, he told the court.

Mr Christopher O'Brien, for the city council, accepted there had been no consultation with individual service users and the announcements in June had 'clearly come as a shock' to many.

But the council was currently carrying out full assessments of all the users' community care needs and there was no proposal to cut services that any of them had been assessed as needing.

He told the judge: 'These services will not be brought to an end, it is a matter of finding better ways for people to have those services'.

Mr O'Brien said the Rethink mental health charity which runs the centres as agents for the council was 'reconsidering how they wish to operate nationally' and no longer wanted to manage the two centres.

Denying the council's stance was 'resources led', Mr O'Brien added that the its stance was in line with national policy on care for the mentally ill in the community.

The council's objective, said the barrister, was to 'reshape' services for the mentally ill in the city to provide 'real work and training skills' that would be 'open to all'.

Dismissing the challenge, Mr Justice Kay said the council's plans were now well advanced and the judicial review challenge was 'not made promptly'.

Such cases must normally be launched within three months of a decision being taken, but papers were not lodged until September 29.

He said there was 'no good reason' for extending the normal time limit.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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