Lewisham's mayor approved £1.3m cuts to social care at an angry meeting packed with vulnerable people and carers who say they will suffer as a result.

Sir Steve Bullock approved proposals - blamed mainly on government austerity - which will see the Mulberry, Leemore and Naborhood day centres turned into "hubs" run by voluntary or community groups, still providing some care for people with learning disabilities but alongside other services.

The council's Door2Door transport service will also be cut back, with carers being given their own personalised budgets to spend on transport and care - budgets which have not been set yet.

Officers explaining the proposals on July 15 were met with shouts of "rubbish" from an angry audience. At one point, Cabinet Member for Health Councillor Chris Best told them: "It's difficult to face a level of change such as this and obviously, for families we do understand."
"You don't understand," shouted one man as a chorus of disapproval filled the room.

An idea put forward by Nick O'Shea from Lewisham Mencap for the council to renegotiate its £248m in PFI debts instead of making the cuts was rejected, although councillors said they were interested in discussing the matter further.

Meanwhile, Helen Bashford from the Parents and Carers support group slammed the consultation process and described the proposals as a "done deal".

She told the meeting: "Although council officers have told us there will be dedicated space for learning disabilities in the proposed community hubs, at the time of the consultation they could not tell us who will run them or what activities will be provided. 

"After attending a providers fair, many carers were not assured that these organisations could meet the needs of their loved one. None of the organisations present could confirm that they could provide a service in the community hubs or would be interested in doing so."

She asked for the proposals to be delayed, at least until carers could see their assessments and find out what their budgets would be.

But Sir Steve Bullock told them: "One of the things which I think I’m clear about is, not withstanding the financial issues, some change at some point is inevitable in the way these services are delivered and are run. I’m very concerned that if we at this point completely stop we’d be back here in a year or two years causing more anxiety, more upset."

Ordering monthly reports on the transition period from officers, he added: "I know that’s not what many of you wanted to hear but this is not the end of the story.

"This is not the closure of the day centres. I believe the day centres have a very important role. We want them to continue to do that."