DUDLEY Council has admitted a Stourbridge centre for people with special needs would close if it is targeted for budget cuts. 

The Unicorn Centre in Amblecote has been earmarked for savings of nearly £1m over the next two years.

The centre, on Brettell Lane, provides specialist care for people with profound learning difficulties and complex health needs.

As part of planned savings of £7.7m in the next financial year, Dudley is considering a cut of £460,000 to the centre’s budget, with a similar amount going the year after.

A decision on the cut will be made by full council on March 4 but the authority has confirmed closure would be the result of a yes vote.

A letter from Emma Matthews, head of Dudley Disability Service, to service users at the centre said: “A proposal has been made to reduce the current costs of the Unicorn Centre. 

“We did not want to pre-empt this decision by contacting you about this however given the current coverage in the press we felt we needed to let you know what is happening.

“Unfortunately, if the decision is made that the financial savings are needed, this will mean the service at The Unicorn Centre will need to close.”

The letter goes on to say service users will be contacted individually to discuss alternative provision.

The news will come as a bombshell to service users who say there is no viable alternative to the specialist facilities and knowledge of staff at The Unicorn.

Ken McClymont, from the Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living, said: “At least the council has admitted what it was going to do all along but they are still not talking to service users and their families – what will happen if the decision is made to close it.

“To replace the Unicorn is going to be extremely hard if not impossible, has the council put it out to tender to see if another organisation could manage it?”

Councillors insist other services could cope, including sending service users to the Queen’s Cross Network in Dudley.

Campaigners are concerned Unicorn service users’ needs may be too complex for Queen’s Cross facilities and overload the centre. 

Councillor Matt Rogers, Dudley cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The savings proposed for the Unicorn Centre form part of the council’s wider budget proposals, and no decisions will be made until that has been ratified at full council.

“However, in terms of a local authority service being run from the centre there are no other options but to withdraw them if the budget proposals are approved next month.

“All other options for the use of the centre will be looked at subject to that decision being made by full council. 

“In terms of Queens Cross this is just one option we will explore with individual service users and their families, if that is the decision made by council.

“We remain confident the individual needs of service-users can be appropriately met through the existing range of services including Adults Social Care’s in-house services, commissioned services and non-commissioned community-based services.”