A COUPLE fed up with 'catastrophic' cuts to support for people with learning disabilities have decided to launch their own multi-million pound centre.
Rachael and Ian Scott-Hunter say the groundbreaking care centre will plug gaps left by years of austerity and be the first of its kind in Oxfordshire.
It would provide daytime support to adults with severe learning disabilities, as well as end of life care and vital respite for carers like themselves.
And the project has been backed by Sister Frances Dominica, founder of the world's first children's hospice in Oxford, who said she was '100 per cent' behind it.
Mrs Scott-Hunter said she and husband Ian were inspired to start their centre through their experiences caring for disabled daughter Alexandra, 44, and their battle against cuts to day centres by Oxfordshire County Council.
The 70-year-old from Chesterton criticised plans for elderly people and the disabled to share buildings, adding: "It will be catastrophic. Adults with profound learning disabilities need their own specialised service, specifically catering to their needs.
"Asking them to 'share' a service with elderly people who have dementia, for example, will never work for either side. It is grossly wrong.
"We want to give people with profound disabilities the best services possible and that is a big part of our vision."
The couple has assembled a board of trustees – many of whom they know through their church community – which includes Sister Frances, founder of Helen House.
Honorary trustee Sister Frances said yesterday: "I am 100 per cent behind these plans and will do everything I can to help. Because of the recent cutbacks, it is desperately needed."
The cash-strapped county council says its plan to change the way day centres are run will save £3.1m a year. It would see the number of council-run centres would fall from 22 to eight in October and elderly and disabled people would share buildings.
Council spokesman Paul Smith said: "Anybody with an eligible assessed care need is guaranteed to continue to receive a service, whether or not that service is provided from the same building as currently.
"We recognise how important it is to provide continuity and consistency for people who have complex and diverse needs, and to ensure that this is tailored to meet the individual needs of each person using the service."
But speaking to the Oxford Mail, Mrs Scott-Hunter said there was not enough specialist support for adults with learning disabilities and this would be made worse by recent changes.
She and husband Ian are now looking for a location in North Oxfordshire to base their centre at and have urged landowners to contact them.
The couple also belong to a support group for parents who care for their disabled children – many well into old age – and say respite for them would be another key pillar of the centre's work.
The mum-of-two added: "Carers everywhere do a wonderful job and we think they need to be appreciated more – it can be a very thankless task but the whole system depends on them."
Mr Scott-Hunter, 72, added: "It can be very stressful. These people deserve to be able to have a break and have time to do things for themselves as well."
The new centre would be specialised to look after people with learning disabilities. It would also offer physiotherapy services, including hydrotherapy, and feature a cafe.
The Scott-Hunters say they hope to provide hospice care because it is not currently provided for people with learning disabilities locally.
Mrs Scott-Hunter added: "These are people who deserve a good and happy end to their lives and in a place where they have stability."
The couple are seeking charity status for their new organisation, which has been named The Alexandra House of Joy after their daughter.
The estimated cost of the project is £6m and trustees hope to reach this target in two to three years, with some potential donors having already expressed interest.
Mrs Scott-Hunter said: "The big step is finding somewhere for the buildings to go. That is our priority."
Those who wish to get in touch with them about the project should email alexandraHouseofJoy@gmail.com