Clarity needed on future of Cottages: MLA

The Cottages respite care unit in Derry.
The Cottages respite care unit in Derry.

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey says the Health Minister should do more to ensure the Western Trust’s review on the future of a children’s respite facility in Derry is brought to a speedy resolution.

Mr. Ramsey, who has been working with party colleague, Mark H. Durkan, to assist those families affected by the proposed closure of the Cottages unit in the Waterside, wants Minister Jim Wells to end any uncertainty.

“This level of uncertainty has gone on for much too long now,” said the SDLP MLA.

“The Minister of Health has informed me he is awaiting the Trust’s review of the Cottages facility.

“It does not take a review or expert medical opinion to realise that any city of Derry’s size and stature requires - no, demands - such a facility for our disabled and most challenged children.

“The indecision is piling pressure on families who are already faced with very complex health needs and living arrangements.”

Mr. Ramsey added: “I asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for an update on the proposed changes to children’s respite care and he informed me he is awaiting a Western Trust review.

“I would not consider the Minister’s position as helpful as he informed me in writing that: ‘The Western Trust has advised me (Health Minister) that it is still considering the best way forward in its review of children’s respite services. Families affected will be advised of its decision in due course. The Trust’s review of these services is primarily to meet new and increasing needs and to manage these within their existing funding – it is not solely a proposal to save money.’”

Mr. Ramsey did, however, welcome a committment from the Minister that the outcome of the review would not be based solely on financial considerations.

“The Minister informed me that: ‘As part of this review, consideration has been given to the very different physical environments of the two respite homes, the different staffing skills and structures, the needs of the children using the service, and the requirement to provide safe and appropriate care and support to children and their families.’”

Families who use the Cottages, backed by local politicians, are campaigning to keep services intact at the Shepherd’s Way facility.

There has been widespread condemnation of proposals to send some disabled children to an alternative treatment centre in Omagh while services in Derry are reduced.

The Cottages provides temporary, residential care for young people with learning difficulties to give families and carers a break.