It is always a pleasure to see residents engaging with Tower Hamlets council directly and Zakir Hussain gave an extremely good account of himself at last week’s cabinet meeting when speaking on item 6.3 the ‘Revised approach to day support in adult social care’.

Revised approach? Simple words concealing a complex issue.

The council has been looking at the future of day support in adult social care. The council runs five Day Centres at a cost of £7.1m. The report on the ‘revised approach’ (which you can find here) reveals that Adult Social Care has a forecast overspend of around £5m for the 2020/21 financial year. (How did that happen?) There were already plans to merge two day centres which predated the pandemic.

What is it with hubs?

Although not as bad as many council documents the report is not easy reading but this seems to be the key idea “We want a bigger focus on supporting adult social care users to access daytime activities available to all residents, such as IDEA Stores or community hubs.”

Problems (1) Seems council is thinking of closing IDEA Stores so what gives? (2) These community hubs must be the size of aircraft hangars as an awful lot of council services are being shoved in them (3) Calling a building ‘a community hub’ is corporate-speak. If the building is used as a community centre then call it a community centre.

Tea and biscuits

Zakir was an ideal person to speak as he has a brother who attends the Physical Disabilities Day Opportunities Centre (“Day Opps”) on a regular basis. Zak is a practising solicitor advocate and Trustee of the Spitalfields based Attlee Centre community organisation

Please watch Zakir doing his thing at 0.52.37 of the Cabinet webcast on Wednesday, 28th October 2020 as it is a treat.

Moley suggests you make some nice tea and get some biscuits because Zakir cuts right through the corporate-speak nonsense.

Nice work sir!

Key issue for Zakir is the risk that the council is trying to push through as many budget saving measures as possible at a time [pandemic] perhaps when people are less able to hold them to account.

In his view the assertion by Cllr. Blake (who is leading on this in her role as Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing) that buildings will close but services re-designed and not necessarily lost is one such example, as is Mayor Biggs repeated compliments to any member of the public who participates as having made “very valid and strong points argued well” etc. whilst his demeanour appears to be more ‘ok, you’ve had your say, now can we proceed and take the decisions we wished to anyway’.

Mole note: Any resident speaking at a public meeting with the council such as Cabinet or a consultation should be very wary of an offer from Those In Power to ‘take this issue offline and hear your concerns in person’ as this is just an attempt to shut you down. (Or shut you up if you prefer.) Way too often Moley hears that the resident then finds the publicly expressed interest in their issue wanes and that personal level of engagement never happens. Odd that, innit? If you have Those In Power engaged in a public meeting demand a proper response then and there and stick with it.

Zakir also says he has identified that the report itself is also very particular in what information it discloses and how.

This and many other issues are covered in the document that Zakir has kindly shared with Moley for you to read.

Zak Hussain - Day Care centre proposals

The council report claims that consultation of users has taken place and these users included 114 older people and 26 carers as well as 18 stakeholders and 12 day service staff. It also says that the consultation included participation of people with physical disabilities who use day centres but provides no number. 50 people? 20? 1?

Bottom line for Zakir is that Cabinet should refuse to approve the proposals as they are and the Day Opps should clearly be retained.

Khan calls out Blake

During Cabinet Cllr. Rabina Khan (Lib Dem, Shadwell) asked Cllr. Blake for an explanation of part of the

Council’s proposals, Appendix A which covers the Equality Impact Assessment Decision Rating. An EIA a process designed to ensure that a policy, project or scheme does not unlawfully discriminate against any groups like, ooh, users of a Day Centre?

Cllr. Khan was not happy.

“I don’t believe carers have been listened to properly,” she said. “These plans deal with assessing the impact on equality to check if any group like the disabled may suffer negatively by closing the centres.”

Screen grab of Appendix A EIA

As you can see the EIA clearly states that “As a result of performing the EIA, it is evident that a disproportionately

negative impact (direct, indirect, unintentional or otherwise) exists to one or more of the nine groups of people who share a Protected Characteristic under the Equality Act. It is recommended that this proposal be suspended until further work is undertaken.”

Recommended ‘Action’ is to suspend the project until the problems are fixed. So why is the project not suspended? Or does the council just pay lip service to EIA matters as it does with so many things? Like running an inner city borough.

Cllr. Blake did not provide Cllr. Khan with a proper response that we saw, maybe this has been provided in another way?

The closure of the Day Centres goes to consultation from 1st November 2020. LBTH consultations are now on the Let’s Talk Tower Hamlets site but at the time of going to press – 1st November 2020 – there was no sign of anything to do with Day Centres.

Accessible captions please!

The pandemic has caused pretty much everything to be virtual (i.e. digital) and to be honest it is a lot less painful to virtually attend a Cabinet meeting than having to do the whole thing for real. And Mole’s burrow is only down the road.

Although not shown on the webcast archive captions are generated automatically by the Microsoft Teams software the council uses at the moment. If you download the webcast file they are visible in the bottom left corner of the screen. Very useful.

These captions should be shown during the live webcast and on the archive for obvious reasons. A fairly simple thing to fix. You can find out more about this and other accessibility issues here.

We are not sure if there is a legal requirement to provide captions but are trying to find out. A full text transcript would be good too.

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