We visited four day centres and interviewed three managers, two service users and seven carers.
We found that the day centres were of a decent size and were accessible and suitable for people with physical and learning disabilities. They had gardens and open space with popular indoor and outdoor activities like bowling and gardening. Day centres also offered 1-to-1 and 2- to-1 support, as well as group support.
Managers reported some challenges including issues around funding and staffing. There was high staff turnover and an over reliance on temporary/agency staff which hugely impacted the quality of services.
Service users liked to spend time with friends and families and enjoyed outdoor and indoor activities. They valued involvement in planning their activities and their timetable and did not like any sudden changes to plans or activities.
Carers reported that delays or cancellations to transport or a change of key worker presented a problem since this can trigger challenging behaviours in service users which is difficult for carers to handle.
Some of our recommendations
Transport. There should be more buses/drivers so transport would be on-time and cancellations would be avoided.
Staffing. Day centres would benefit from more full-time staff with relevant training (e.g. challenging behaviour, autism). Day centres should offer career development opportunities and better salaries, thereby improving retention rates. Day centres should use less short-term temporary agency staff.
Support for carers. Day centres should provide training for carers (e.g. relevant to challenging behaviours, communication skills) besides exercise and other social events which could also serve as a platform for carers to exchange ideas and information.
Building. It is important the new day centre’s building plan accommodates physical and communal activities (e.g. dancing) as well as activities promoting independence and domestic skills (e.g. training kitchens). The building should be autism appropriate with a sensory room/environment.
What would an ideal day centre look like?
The findings of our research suggest the characteristics of an ideal day centre are as follows:
- Accessible, decent size, safe buildings to be a low arousal environment, neutral colours and special lighting.
- Access to safe outdoor space/garden.
- Offer mix of indoor and outdoor activities that are good for physical and mental health.
- Has adequate full-time staff with relevant training and good retention rates.
- Offers support for carers.
- Have integrated health services in planning, delivery and evaluation.