Monday, 21 March 2011

Desperate for respite

The Accrington Observer recently told the story of a parent of a disabled child desperate for respite yet prevented from accessing a respite centre due to Lancashire County Council budget cuts.

Terri Lofthouse has been trying for almost 2 years to access respite at Hargreaves House which provides overnight breaks for disabled children. Yet Lancashire have prevented this while at the same time claim the respite centres are 'under used'.

SORE has heard from other families who could benefit from the services offered by the respite centres but who have either been prevented from doing so or have not been told such facilities exist. Terri herself knows of two other families who have been unable to access Hargreaves House.

And this issue is not new. Previous families have told us that they weren't automatically offered a respite centre as an option for having a break.

Terri's son Jules has a range of disabilities after contracting a meningitis like illness at just two years old.

Despite being assessed as qualifying for respite care by a social worker, Terri has been told she is unable to use Hargreaves House as there are no longer any intake panels to consider the referral. Her consultant has also written a letter asking for her son to be able to use the facility.

Cabinet Member for Children & Schools for Lancashire, Susie Charles' response to the issue is somewhat confused. Councillor Charles mentions the County Moderating Panel ..yet this is not the panel which decides on access to the respite centres. The panels which make the decisions were stopped from meeting in November last year. Terri told the Accrington Observer "They keep saying there are no intake panels for new children - they have been stopped. They've put the shutters down".

Both the government National Service Framework for Disabled Children (2004) and Aiming High for Disabled Children guidance (2008) states that families should be offered 'without undue delay' a 'range of services from which to choose' including residential provision and that they should be able to choose residential services as a 'service of choice'.

So why are families in Lancashire who care lifelong for disabled children being denied this vital support?