Health Minister demanding ‘full explanation’ from WHSCT over ‘Cottages’ affair

Pictured from left to right, SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H Durkan, Health Minister, Jim Wells and SDLP MLA for Foyle, Pat Ramsey.
Pictured from left to right, SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H Durkan, Health Minister, Jim Wells and SDLP MLA for Foyle, Pat Ramsey.

Health Minister, Jim Wells, is seeking a “full explanation” from the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) over their proposals to reduce the services at a Derry based respite care unit for children.

The decision to ask the WHSCT for an explanation came after SDLP MLAs for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan and Pat Ramsey, met with the Minister on Monday.

The Cottages Respite Care, Dungiven Road, Derry. DER4914MC058

The Cottages Respite Care, Dungiven Road, Derry. DER4914MC058

The meeting followed indications from the WHSCT recently that respite services cannot be guaranteed in the future at the current level.

The respite unit is based in Shepherd’s Way just off the Dungiven Road. Known locally as ‘The Cottages’ the unit offers respite care to families of children with complex needs aged between five and 18.

Speaking to the Derry Journal on Tuesday, Mr. Durkan, described the meeting as “positive”.

“The Minister has indicated that he will now contact the Western Trust to ask for their full explanation of this decision. After that we will meet again to look at how we can reverse this grossly iniquitous plan.

“We had a positive meeting and pressed hard for respite services at The Cottages to be retained at their current level. I’m pleased that the Minister listened to what we had to say and agreed with our analysis that the small potential savings are offset by the immense amount of pain these plans would cause.”

Mr. Ramsey told the Derry Journal that he saw service provide by ‘The Cottages’ as “valuable and much needed” and hinted that the proposed plan to change the facility could be stopped.

“The respite care provided at Shepherd’s Way is a valuable and much needed service. We have been speaking to service users and their families over the last number of weeks and it’s clear that any substantial change to the current arrangements will cause unnecessary upheaval, anxiety and upset.

“I’m glad that the Minister has recognised that this plan, which would only save £35,000 out of a £9million target, will inflict disproportionate pain and hardship on those who use the unit. I look forward to working with him to put a halt to this plan.”