CLOSING three learning disability day centres in Glasgow could lead to a surge in the number of people being taken into emergency care, says the city's new council carers' champion.

Christopher Mason, who was appointed to the post after last year's elections, has investigated plans to shut Summerston, Berryknowes (Cardonald) and Hinshaw Street (Maryhill) resource centres. His warning comes in a new report.

If the plan gets the go-ahead, the remaining four council centres would be used by people with severe learning disabilities and places would be found in the community for the remainder.

But carers have raised serious concerns about the plan with Mr Mason.

He said: "The measures are unlikely to be welcomed by carers and almost certain to cause them considerable stress and worry. In some cases, this may lead to carers being unable to keep their children at home and the council may have to find emergency placements and meet additional costs.

"Without adequate day services, many carers have to give up their jobs or careers to become a full-time carer and this can do serious damage to their quality of life as well as families' finances.

"Years of caring can leave the carer physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

"Many carers become socially isolated, particularly if they have had to give up paid employment outside the home.

"Partnerships fail, other family relationships are often disrupted and if there are children without a disability, their needs can be neglected. Older carers have particular problems that demand urgent attention.

"It is no longer unusual for parents or siblings to be caring for their children or siblings with learning disabilities for 30 or 40 years.

"Many have neglected their own health needs and are anxious about what will happen when they are no longer able to cope."

Mr Mason said the council had not provided information about the total number of people in the city with learning disabilities.

He said: "Two years ago, 820 people were attending council day centres. Now it is 520 and the measures proposed will see it reduced to 200."

Mr Mason says carers need to know what alternative activities will be provided and that users will find them at least as fulfilling as a day centre.

He added: "Carers will fear the cuts will be implemented before the new services are ready.

"They are wondering what they are going to do, perhaps for many months if not years, with adults, who cannot be safely left on their own, stuck in the house all day with little to do.

"I suggest that, because genuine reform is now urgent, it is time to give carers and service-users a major role in the reform process."

He has called for a new group to be set up, made up of carers, service-users and council officers, which would review the whole range of learning disability services and report within six months.