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Suffolk County Council to close specialist care company Sensing Change


By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter


Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (12332816)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (12332816)

Health chiefs have said there is no threat to services for deaf and blind people in Suffolk after it emerged the county council’s specialist care company is to be wound up.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet will next week agree to dissolve Sensing Change, one of its wholly owned companies which provides specialist care for those with sight or hearing loss.

The firm has been subsidised by £984,000 a year from the county council, with the aim that it eventually became self-financing.

But, the cabinet report confirmed this has not happened.

It said: “The company has struggled to identify opportunities for business growth, and it has become clear that without this growth the company is not viable as an independent organisation.”

On Tuesday the council’s cabinet will agree to dissolve the company and transfer care staff back in house to the council.

But councillor Beccy Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care, said there would not be a change to the level of care provided.

“I look forward to the discussions on the future of Sensing Change at the cabinet meeting,” she said.

“Whatever the outcome, I would like to reassure people who are receiving the services there will be no change to day-to-day delivery, we are committed to supporting residents and they will continue to receive support.”

The 32 members of staff employed through the service will remain with the county council, the authority said.

Around 270 people use the service at any one time, although figures on the council’s report said that there were more than 114,000 people in Suffolk who were deaf or hard of hearing, and a further 3,000 who were sight impaired or severely sight impaired, that could access the service.

A spokesman from Suffolk County Council’s opposition Labour group, said: “Understandably, there is some concern around this move and much more clarity is needed about what the ramifications are.

“Can the council retain Sensing Change’s specialism, maintaining, if not improving, the standard of their provision? At a time where nothing seems safe from Tory austerity, will the funding for this invaluable service be protected?

“We hope that the needs of people with sight or hearing loss have come first and foremost in this decision, rather than the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council seeing this as an opportunity to make even more cuts.”



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