FEARS have been raised for adults with learning disabilities who rely on the Fitzgerald Centre – as the council forges ahead with a controversial merger.

The Tele has learned there is ‘growing concern’ about a reduction in the number of long- term service users and the level of support they can now expect.

In a string of claims we were told that care packages are being reviewed to save money and that staff morale at the facility has hit rock bottom.

Under the new plans - part of a redesign to save £500,000 - the McPherson Centre in Gourock is closing down and everyone who uses the daycare facility will move to the Fitzgerald Centre in Greenock, pictured, on a temporary basis.

Meanwhile a new report to the Inverclyde Joint Integration Board says the cost of refurbishing the centre to meet the needs of those coming from Gourock has now doubled, to £140,000.

A source told the Tele: “Fitzgerald Centre service user numbers have dramatically reduced since a service redesign team started.

“They are continuing to move people on to make space for the McPherson Centre.

“The care packages of Fitzgerald Centre service users are still being discussed, not to suit their needs but to save money.

“Staff morale is poor due to frustration that the service users are not receiving the care and support they deserve and need.

“This is having an impact on the levels of care for service users.

“Staff are also left to support service users who are anxious because of the continual changes.”

Families who have used the McPherson Centre for many years fought to try and keep it open, led by Gourock mum Patricia Arthur, whose 22-year-old son Thomas goes there every day.

But the council pushed through with their decision to shut the centre and move people with profound physical and learning needs to Fitzgerald.

The ‘redesign team’ drafted in to the centre to carry out the changes have come under fire.

A source said: “Staff don’t feel they are listened to and find the redesign team unapproachable and intimidating.

“When staff leave they are not replaced, putting more pressure on existing staff and leading to high levels of sickness.”

Inverclyde Council say they do not recognise any of the concerns raised. 

They insist everyone has worked closely together, been fully included and say that staff are in favour of the new service.

A spokesman told the Tele: “Service users, families, carers, staff and the wider community are all involved and are being consulted as the redesign of day opportunities is implemented.

“Staff at both the McPherson and Fitzgerald centres are working together to make the transition from the former a seamless process for service users and their families.

“The needs of each service user have been assessed on an individual basis and outcomes identified and agreed with them and their families.

“Staff have worked closely together to support service users to ensure confidence in the transition process. 

“They have also been supported by the independent organisations Your Voice and The Advisory Group.

“All day opportunity staff are fully included in the redesign and took part in a consultation event  to ensure they play an active role in the development of the new service and feedback from the staff has been extremely positive.”

The council says the ongoing process has the full support of the local health and social care partnership and trade unions.

Their spokesman added: “The quality of support given by the service is high and is regulated by the Care Inspectorate.

“That will continue throughout the merging of the two centres.”