Parents' plea over respite cuts threat

Parents of severely disabled youngsters in Blackpool are pleading to the council not to cut a respite care service.

Tuesday, 28th June 2016, 10:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th June 2016, 11:08 am
Families fear that Hornby Road Respite Care Centre could be closed due to cutbacks

Around 40 families are currently helped by the Hornby Road centre which allows them to get their children into respite care.

But the Government’s cuts are forcing Blackpool Council to analyse a range of services and a consultation period has just ended on Hornby Road which considered shutting it for two nights a week and increasing the age range of clients.

Jackie Ellis, whose 16-year-old son has severe learning difficulties, is autistic and needs 24 hour care, said the centre has highly trained staff used to coping with children who sometimes have challenging behaviour and who all need specialised care and the parents were extremely worried.

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She said: “This is the only place that takes our children with severe disabilities overnight.

“At the moment it has 10 beds for children to stay over but they are proposing to cut this to six.

“They are also proposing to cut provision from seven nights a week to five and will close Monday and Tuesday and change it from caring for five to 17-year-olds to five to 25 year-olds.

“They have said they don’t think that this will affect the families because the occupancy rate is just 63 per cent. But the reason for that is because of the complex needs of the children, they can only take certain children at certain times. For example you can’t have some of the boys and girls staying over on the same night. Others need certain specialist carers to be there. They can never fill all 10 all the time.”

Tracey Finlayson, mum of Georgia, said: “They say the cuts are around 40 per cent but it will be more like 70 per cent when the complex changes and day closures are taken into account.”

Laura Earnshaw, who also has a daughter called Georgia, said: “If they cut Mondays and Tuesdays the children who stay then will have to be moved to another night and because of their complex needs it will be chaos.”

Gail Ellison, mother of Jack, said: “The wonderful staff there are already looking for new jobs because they think their hours will be cut.

“That has already hit the amount of cover they can offer over the coming summer. Some parents have said if the respite is cut they may have to put their children into care.”

Laura Hall, mum of Matthew, said: “They say the service is not operating at capacity, but there is a waiting list. Matthew is really attached to some staff members and the children need stability.

“Parents need that one night a week of respite to have quality time with their other kids.”

Coun Graham Cain, cabinet secretary at Blackpool Council, said: “Firstly, I want to assure the parents that have provided feedback, through the consultation process, that we are working through each point raised in detail and will respond directly about all of their areas of concern.

“This is a complex situation and we are committed to working with the parents to ensure the best possible solution for their child.

“I would also like to confirm that there will be no changes to the current staffing levels over the summer.”