Cottages campaign to continue until officially saved

Derry father, Frank Gallagher, with his son, Eoin, who uses the 'Cottages' respite unit in the Waterside.

Derry father, Frank Gallagher, with his son, Eoin, who uses the 'Cottages' respite unit in the Waterside.

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The father of a child with severe complex needs who uses a local respite care unit has said a campaign designed to save the service will continue until the families affected receive official confirmation that service is to be retained.

Frank Gallagher, whose teenage son, Eoin, avails of respite care at the Cottages unit in the Waterside, was responding to the news that Health Minister Jim Wells, has given a “strong indication” that unit will be saved.

The Cottages Respite Care, Dungiven Road, Derry. DER4914MC059

The Cottages Respite Care, Dungiven Road, Derry. DER4914MC059

“The parents group greatly welcome indications that there might shortly be a ministerial announcement, and that a positive outcome is expected.

“However, until we know, there will be a proper and inclusive process that gets to the root of the issues the campaign continues, it has to,” said Mr. Gallagher.

When contacted by the Derry Journal on Friday a spokesperson for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) could not confirm that the Cottages respite care unit had indeed been saved.

“The Western Health and Social Care Trust has been reviewing its respite services and this work is continuing. The Western Trust will keep the Department updated,” the DHSSPS spokesperson said.

Mr. Gallagher is just one of many parents affected by the Western Health and Social Care Trust’s (WHSCT) decision to review the way in which respite care was being managed at the Cottages. The decision was taken before Christmas with an end to the consultation period on December 25, 2014.

“The suggestion that a positive outcome is a great relief to many distraught families who have been living under this shadow for too long,” said Mr. Gallagher.

“The minister has clearly agreed what we have contended all along, that these cuts were clearly the wrong decision and the profound impact, and longer term impacts for our city, were hard to reconcile to the small amounts saved.

“However, it took a concerted campaign by the parents and our city’s political representatives to halt what was clearly a poor decision rooted in much deeper issues around the planning of these services in the North West.

“We cannot lose focus on that, and that underlying situation has to change or this is simply a stay of execution, window dressed as a solution,” he added

Last week, the Journal revealed that Health Minister, Jim Wells, had ordered the WHSCT to halt the process until he had met with officials.

The suggestion that a positive outcome is imminent arose when SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan, confirmed that during a conversation with Minister Wells on Thursday, he received a “strong indication” that the service would be saved.