The Western Trust is set to notify parents about the future of Derry’s main respite facility for disabled children within a fortnight,
Staff at The Cottages are also expected to be given direction on the matter in the first half of January.
Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Health Committee, Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin last night welcomed the news that the consultation on the future of the Waterside facility was extended over the Christmas period, and that those users of the facility and staff will know the outcome of that in early January.
Ms McLaughlin said: “In recent weeks, since I first highlighted concerns over the plans to reduce services at The Cottages, I have raised it directly with the Minister Jim Wells, in the Assembly. And I have also met with officials from the Western Trust who told me these proposals would only achieve savings of up to £40,000, yet the value of this service far excels that figure.”
She said the proposals have caused “a great deal of concern in the city, particularly among parents of children who use this valuable and much-needed facility”.
“I called on the Minister to halt the plans to reduce the service at The Cottages,”Ms McLaughlin said. “I have now received correspondence from the Western Trust to say the staff consultation was extended right up until Christmas Eve and that they will consider any responses received over the next week or so. They have also told me that they hope to advise staff and families of the way forward in and around the second week in January 2015 .”
The Foyle MLA added: “We need to ensure that any of these proposals coming forward are fully impact assessed - I do not believe that this proposal was subject to assessment- as to make sure those who are most vulnerable are not negatively impacted on.
“We saw a similar approach in the Belfast Trust over the Christmas period when they were forced to reverse a decision to remove home care from hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people.”
A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust meanwhile confirmed to the Journal: “The staff consultation closed on 24th December and responses will be considered over the next week. The Western Trust will advise staff and families of the proposed way forward the following week.”
The Journal first revealed the threat to the respite facility, located off Dungiven Road, back in November.
Since then a number of families have spoken of their ire and dismay that such a vital service was being reviewed, while the Health Minister has demanded an explanation from the Western Trust.
The Children’s Respite Cottage in Derry is a six-bedded unit that provides regular, short-term respite care for children with a learning disability.
It houses children aged from five to 18, and its staff are equipped to care for children who may have additional health problems.
Back in November the Western Trust said at the time that the Children’s Service formed only one part of a wider review of its provision of all short-term breaks for patients, their families and carers.
The announcement came just weeks after Trust bosses announced that it would be rolling out cutbacks of £7m over the next few months, with a warning issued to patients that quality of services will be affected.