Fears are growing that Derry’s main respite facility for disabled children is under threat after health bosses admitted it is under review.
The Western Health and Social Care Trust have admitted to the Journal that The Cottages respite facility off Dungiven Road in the Waterside is now under the spotlight.
They further stated that this is only one part of a wider review into its provision of short-term breaks for patients, their families and carers within the Western area.
Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin has now demanded a meeting with Trust officials to discuss the matter, in light of the review.
The revelations regarding respite care are expected to cause shockwaves among relatives and guardians who deliver round-the-clock care and themselves rely on the facility in Derry for a break.
The Children’s Respite Cottage in Derry is a six-bedded unit. It provides regular, short-term respite care for children with a learning disability, and any associated conditions.
It houses children aged from five to 18, and its staff are equipped to care for children who may have additional health problems.
Foyle Sinn Fein MLA and chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee Maeve McLaughlin expressed alarm over the future of the service.
Speaking about the Derry facility, she said: “The workers are looking for some clarity on their jobs and families of children who use this facility on its long term future.
“I have been in contact with the Western Trust and asked for an urgent meeting to get the full facts about what is going on here and relay the concerns of both staff and the parents.”
A spokeswoman for the Western Health and Social Care Trust has now confirmed to the Journal:
“The Trust is currently reviewing how it provides short-term breaks for families within the funding provided and this review will include the Cottages facility.
“The Assistant Director, who has responsibility for these services has met with staff and will continue to do so.
“There will also be a formal internal consultation process for staff and their Trade Union representatives.”
She added that the Trust “will also be engaging with families on a personalised basis thereafter.”
There are other respite care facilities for children and adults across the Western Trust and it is unclear the extent to which these could be affected by the review.
Last month, the Western Trust announced that it would be rolling out cutbacks of £7m over the next few months.
A warning was issued to patients at the time that quality of services will be affected.
Wheelchair allocations, domiciliary care packages and independent sector residential and nursing home provision are among the services to be restricted.
The majority of the savings will come from implementing a number of cuts to the workforce across the Trust.