A MOTHER’S impassioned plea was met with empathy and support from councillors pondering the future of The Cherries respite centre for disabled children.
Wendy Darley, whose son attends another centre, spoke at a meeting of the health and adult social care select committee meeting last Thursday.
She said: “For those of you who have had children, I’m sure you can remember the amazement you felt when holding your child for the first time.
“I’m sure you can also remember the sense of worry and anxiety you felt leaving them for the first time. As a parent of a child with special needs, this worry never goes away.
“Along with caring for other children, and juggling other commitments, the break facilitated by the respite at The Cherries is invaluable.”
Parents are battling to save The Cherries from closure.
The future of the facility that parents and children have come to love, rely on and look forward to is being threatened by the Sussex Community NHS Trust who are instead proposing an alternative of care at home and short breaks.
Despite assurance that the SCT are continuing to work directly with families to discuss their needs, many of the parents said they had never been approached.
“The parents are not directly spoken to concerning the care of their children, which is something that desperately needs to be addressed,” said Wendy.
“Parents do not want care at home. This does not allow them the respite they need.
“If they are unable to find the nurses for The Cherries, how are they hoping to provide care at home?”
Aaron Gain, principal manager of strategic commissioning children and families, said: “The future of the Cherries is not just an economic problem, we are trying to change the service to get the most out of it.”
He said that the service would cease to be NHS-led in March 2013, but there would be a series of meetings to discuss any changes. Cllr Anne Jones said it was ‘terribly important’ that the parents were consulted and involved in decision making.
“To lose any services would be criminal,” she said.
“If we don’t look after the parent we’ve got a whole family that falls apart. These children and parents are extremely special and the parents worry for their children is enormous. Siblings also need extra care as well as the children with special needs.”
“Any changes need to come back to the chamber and more scrutiny and dialogue need to be had before we can move forwards. Councillors agreed that further scrutiny and discussion was needed before the future of The Cherries could be determined and a sub-committee would be formed.
Anyone who would like to sign the petition in support of The Cherries can visit epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/39459
We want to hear your views on the story. You can email Olivia Lerche