Council bosses have moved to quell concerns increasing services at the Centre for Independent Living could leave disabled users at a greater risk.
Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs have drawn up plans for the future direction of services at the town’s Centre for Independent Living (CIL) in Burbank Street, which focuses on supporting working age adults with disability.
It will involve developing services further by including the site among the council’s community hubs, which currently stand at three existing hubs of North, Central and South.
The plans aim to provide working age adults with disabilities increased opportunities to access training, employment and services that support independence.
However concerns were raised at the council adult and community based services committee over the vulnerability of older people using the centre with more visitors accessing the site.
Coun Sue Little said: “Personally I think we might be putting our most vulnerable people at a little more risk.
“When we’re going in there for training we’re all in one room, but if you’ve got people coming in and out throughout the day when you can’t keep an eye on everybody, it makes people a little bit more vulnerable than they are now.”
Neil Harrison, head of safeguarding and specialist services at the council, moved to calm the concerns, stating risk assessments will be carried out at all stages to ensure everyone is safe at the site.
He said: “The development of the offer has been informed by current users of the service and their families/carers and will continue to be shaped by the aspirations and needs of people who require support in the future.
“We had 10,000 visitors to the services last year and we never had any problems, the doors are there to restrict footfall through the building and that will remain.
“We don’t envisage any further complaints in relation to the deployment of the community hub in there and we still have the opportunity to screen people in and out and people will not be at anymore risk then they are now.
“Technically it is a public building. Any of the people we support are generally supervised, there’s never been an issue to date, but we will look at that.”
He also agreed to have a further look to see if anything else can be done to safeguard users.
Coun Stephen Thomas said it was important the development of the services on offer at the CIL took place to ensure it makes the most of its facilities.
He said: “I think what we’re seeing at the moment is just a small proportion of the potential it could reach.
“What we currently have in respect of the CIL is a 21st Century building largely delivering a 20th Century model of service provision.
“I really do look forward to the building moving forward and the service offer we have through the building developing and meeting the needs of the people within this town.”
The day-to-day services at the centre, which opened in February 2017 and cost £4million, currently support 95 people and the number is steadily increasing.
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service