Only 13 respite beds across Western Trust despite 59 adults and 27 children waiting

Only thirteen beds were available for overnight respite care in the Western Trust at the end of last month, it has emerged.

Foyle MLA Mark H. Durkan has called for increased capacity at day centres and respite facilities to help families who, he says, are ‘at breaking point’.

The shortfall was revealed by the Health Minister Robins Swann who confirmed that there were 59 adults and 27 children waiting for overnight respite care in the Western Trust on May 18.

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The number of respite beds (13) in the WHSCT on that date was lower than the South Eastern (99), Belfast (28) and Southern (22) Trusts, the minister confirmed.

Mark Durkan.

Mr. Durkan said: “For many families waiting in desperate need for adequate respite support, the fact that the Western Trust has the lowest number of respite beds in NI will come as no surprise.”

The SDLP MLA said he appreciated that many of the consequences of the COVID pandemic were unavoidable, including reduced capacity within day centres and respite facilities.

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But he said he ‘cannot accept that two years down the line these services, including transport provision, has not returned to pre-pandemic levels’.

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“For them, these vital respite beds represent much, much more than an overnight amenity; they offer an essential opportunity for exhausted parent to recharge and they are a crucial crutch for families to lean on.”

Mr. Swann said the information provided by the WHSCT related to mental health, physical disability, learning disability, older people’s and children’s respite services.

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He said short breaks provision across statutory health and social care settings has ‘significantly increased’ but that ‘overall capacity has reduced as a number of respite beds available in care homes have been withdrawn by independent sector providers’.

Mr. Durkan said: “It’s unacceptable that demand for respite beds in the North West is over six times the available resource and we see that picture is one which is reflected right across the north.

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“The dire situation which so many families now find themselves in cannot be entirely attributed to the effects of the pandemic, services have struggled to keep step with growing demand and the reality is that adequate funding has not been secured to increase and enhance provision.

“I acknowledge the Health Minister is hamstrung given the lack of an executive and continued uncertainty around future funding.

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“However, these families are on their knees begging for support. They don’t need apologies or empty promises; they need action now.”

The ‘Journal’ asked the Western Trust for a response.