Our investigation into day opportunity services for people with disabilities and other needs in Birmingham reveals what service users and their families and carers value about the support they receive, and what they think can be improved.
Healthwatch Birmingham spoke to nearly 150 people about their experiences, and visited a number of day opportunity services ourselves. We found that:
- The main reasons people use day opportunity services are due to personal loss, isolation, poor health and wellbeing, to maintain health and wellbeing and to support carers.
- Day opportunity services have an impact on social and preventive outcomes by supporting continued independence of service users, supporting their health and daily living needs, and enabling family carers to have a break and/or continue with employment.
- Attending and participating in activities at day centres has a positive impact on people’s mental health, social contacts, physical function and quality of life.
- The challenges faced by carers/families and service users during the pandemic, when day opportunity services were closed, further highlights the important role that day opportunity services play in supporting emotional and physical health. The pandemic has left many carers/families exhausted and emotionally drained.
- It is important that people have the choice to access services they want, including day opportunity services.
- Use of personal budgets and direct payments might be useful for enabling people to access varied services but are not appropriate for everyone.
- There is a perception amongst the people we spoke to that personal budgets and direct payments are being used to mask cuts to day service provision.
- There are inadequate services in the community that day opportunity service users can choose from, meaning limited ‘choice and flexibility’.
- There is inadequate information made available on the services which are accessible to day opportunity service users in the community.
- Day centres need to be better regulated for the quality of care they provide.
Through our discussions with Birmingham City Council, we agreed that the findings will inform any reviews into day opportunity services, taking into account the experiences shared in this report and the improvements service users told us they would like to see.