Sunderland care centre in fresh crisis

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A RESPITE care centre saved from closure has been plunged back into crisis due to spending cuts.

The Donna Claire Venture, in Seaburn, Sunderland, is funded purely on donations, providing lifeline care for the severely disabled.

However, cuts to local authority budgets mean many of its patients are being urged to use other council-run respite centres in a bid to save cash.

Geraldine Plunkett, founder of Donna Claire, said: “We need people in our beds to operate and if families are not being given help with paying for time here, then we are in trouble.

“These vulnerable people and their families should not be on the receiving end of cuts like this. They should have a choice.”

Families who come to the centre rely on a mixture of direct funding, money from local authorities and private cash to pay for time there.

Although the Government has said they will give an extra £20million for respite care, local authorities are currently faced with huge cuts to their budgets.

Now some families using Donna Claire say they have been approached by their local authority urging them to use councilrun facilities rather than Donna Claire.

Hayley Findlay was a baby when she was involved in a car accident leaving her brain damaged.

Now 33, Hayley has been going to Donna Claire for six years, partly paid for by Durham County Council. But now the authority is suggesting changes to her care.

Stepdad Jack Wright said: “It’s the current financial situation, the cuts the Government have made mean the council want us to use their respite centre instead of a private one. But since Hayley has been going to Donna Claire we have had total peace of mind. We used other centres in the past but this is the only one where we have felt totally at ease with.”

Joanne Buck, 32, has suffered from cerebral palsy since she was a baby and attends Donna Claire eight times a year.

Mum Joan, who cares for Joanne, has been asked to attend a review at the end of the month about Joanne’s care arrangements.

Joan said: “Social services have said they are going to look at another place instead of Donna Claire for Joanne to go to. They pay for the bulk of it and Joanne pays the rest.

“Joanne loves it at Donna Claire, it’s not on that they want her to move somewhere else. We tried other places before but no where is as good, I’m really worried and anxious about what’s going to happen next.”

The centre faced closure two years ago due to lack of money but, after an Echo-backed campaign to raise money, the centre was saved by the donations of scores of Wearsiders.

Geraldine said: “When someone asks who owns the centre I say ‘the people of Sunderland’ because they have supported us and always been so generous.

“We need people to donate, arrange a fund-raising event anything really that could help. Our real concern is that we want to give the carers a break which gives the whole family a lift. The centre really is unique, we are more like a family.”

Tracy Joisce, Durham County Council operations manager for learning disabilities and mental health, said: “We are currently reviewing all respite care in order to ensure that people across the county have equal access to respite services. This may mean that some people get more provision while others may receive less.

“Our primary aim is to ensure that everyone receives the best possible service that fully meets their needs. However, we also need to ensure that we are receiving the best value for money. For example, if the same level of service can be offered at a location that is closer to user’s home than the centre they normally attend, we ask that they use the alternative provider, regardless of whether it is council-run or independent.”

To make a donation or set up a fund-raising event call Donna Claire on 5293171.