PEOPLE with learning disabilities left in limbo during the coronavirus crisis have won a reprieve.

When the Home Farm Trust revealed plans to shut down its much-loved Milton Heights day centre near Didcot by the end of May, many families feared that more than 100 people depending on its support would be abandoned without a secure future.

However, since the unexpected announcement in January the organisation has agreed to temporarily postpone the closure in light of the ongoing pandemic following government advice.

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Even further, Oxfordshire County Council has now found alternative facilities for most residents of the hub outside Didcot and, once it is safe to do so, families will be supported through the move.

Concerned parents Barbara and Graham Williams, whose daughter Lydia lives at the centre, said: “Our understanding is that most, if not all, of the residents have been found alternative placements by OCC, who have worked very hard, given the tight time-scale.

“Had Covid-19 not arisen, they would have moved on by now.

“Certainly that is the case for our daughter Lydia, who, along with two others from Milton Heights, has been found a place in a new service in Witney run by the Kingwood Trust.”

The couple also added that staff on the ground at Milton Heights are doing a ‘sterling job’ to keep residents calm during the pandemic.

They have also arranged regular visits to the centre by a local ice-cream van.

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A spokesperson for the county council said that, to ensure the safety of the people living on the site, HFT had agreed to extend the current notice period.

The measures are set to be reviewed on a monthly basis.

The council added: “This means that a number of resident moves were postponed.

“We will continue to maintain strong oversight of this situation and a transition plan will be put in place for each individual when it is safe to do so.”

Over the years the centre has been a secure place for people with many types of learning disability, on end-of-life support, the elderly, dementia sufferers, and people with other complex health needs who depend on the care provided.

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In February the looming closure was debated at a meeting chaired by the newly-appointed Wantage MP David Johnston, whose constituency covers Milton Heights.

It was attended by county council officials, HFT managers and family members and social workers from the action group that was fighting to keep the facility open.

However, affected family members were reassured that Milton Heights residents will be rehomed and that ‘there is no prospect whatsoever of revoking HFT’s decision’.

Many family members of people who used the centre also criticised the national organisation for handling the closure in a ‘morally and ethically wrong’ way.

One concerned parent Alison Baker said at the time that her daughter Charlie had ‘fallen apart’ and was ‘devastated’ when hearing the news of the closure.

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In March the county council also addressed what the loss of these services would mean for many who have relied on the charity’s support for years.

A spokesperson said: “For those receiving the day service: social work staff have met with people and their families, where needed, to explore options.

“Everyone has been notified about alternative provision available.”

As well as Oxfordshire County Council, nine other local authorities support people living at the site.

In February, HFT blamed the closure on nationwide underfunding of social care.

Eoin Keogh, the charity’s operations director said: “While the local authority has the statutory responsibility for identifying appropriate provision for the people they fund, we are continuing to focus our collective efforts on planning for the transition.

“We want to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible for those people moving to new homes, when it is safe for them to do so.”