Respite care cuts on hold after Sunderland parents challenge council

Pamela Mann, centre, with fellow parents angry at plans to close the Respite Care Centre on Sea View Road West, Grangetown.
Pamela Mann, centre, with fellow parents angry at plans to close the Respite Care Centre on Sea View Road West, Grangetown.
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ANGRY parents have won a battle with council chiefs over a Wearside respite home – but say the war is far from over.

After a meeting with bosses from Sunderland City Council, parents, whose vulnerable children stay at the Sea View Road West centre in Ryhope, say initial plans to cut hours have been put back for six months.

Pamela Mann, 53, who is full-time carer to her daughter, Tara Lancaster, 14, said the council’s proposals to close the unit on Sundays and Mondays, thereby reducing respite time available to the children with severe special needs, would have a huge detrimental impact on families.

She said following the weight of opposition from parents at the meeting, the authority said it would put the plans on hold until September, when a full consultation exercise would be carried out.

Tara, who has Ohdo syndrome and cannot walk, talk or feed herself, is totally reliant on Pamela.

The Pennywell mum says the three nights a month the teenager spends at Sea View Road is the only chance the pair have to get a break from each other.

She said: “It is not just about parents and carers getting a much-needed break, for these children it is the only chance they get to socialise with other young people outside the classroom.

“I am pleased with the latest move, it gives us another six months to prepare.

“We will continue to fight any plans to cut services for these children, who are the most vulnerable people in society.”

Dawn and Robin Taylor, from Fulwell, say their eldest son, Calum, 16, has such severe autism and ADHD that he needs to stay at the centre three nights a week just so the family, including his ten-year-old brother, Sam, can cope with his behaviour.

Dawn, 50, said: “The centre is an absolute lifeline for us. If the council reduces the respite care, families just won’t be able to cope with the pressure and will end up putting their child into full-time care, which would be a huge cost.”

Fiona Regan, whose 16-year-old son, Darius, is autistic and has tuberous sclerosis, said: “By reducing respite services like this it will get to a crisis point where families are no longer able to cope with the behaviour.

“It doesn’t just impact on the children and their families, it has an impact on the whole of Sunderland. It would put extra pressure on the NHS, police and social services.”

Lee and Lisa Hibbert, from Ryhope, said their son, Morgan, 15, who has Down’s Syndrome and is autistic, loves going to Sea View Road.

And, Philip Young, 47, whose daughter, Abigail, 12, has cerebral palsy and stays at the centre, said: “This is an excellent facility. How can the council justify spending £1.3million on Roker Pier while reducing services like this?”

Sea View Road cares for more than 60 children on a rota basis.

Councillor Pat Smith, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services in Sunderland, said: “We need to make changes at Sea View Road to hopefully safeguard its long term future, and have said throughout that any changes will only be made after consultation with the parents and families who use the centre.

“This consultation process will be extended until September, to allow everyone the time and opportunity to share their views and opinions with us. Those views and opinions will help us decide on what changes can be achieved, to make sure that this respite short-break care can continue despite the economic pressures on this and other services.”