The father of a young boy with complex needs who avails of respite care at ‘The Cottages’ unit in Derry has called on the people of the city to back a campaign to save the local facility.
Speaking to The Derry Journal exclusively at a special meeting in Ardnashee School and College yesterday, Frank Gallagher, said he hoped to send the Western Trust a message by getting organised and by getting as many people as possible to support the campaign.
“The proposals by the Western Trust for families in Derry to stop using ‘The Cottages’ and start using a facility in Omagh is not just going to affect families in Derry but it will affect families in Omagh, Strabane and Enniskillen too.
“That’s why we are organising ourselves into a group made up of representatives from each area.
“We are also sending letters of complaint using the Trust’s official complaint procedure. We think the way the consultation process, if you could even call it that, was carried out was great cause for concern.
“We are concerned that the Trust may not have involved parents in the consultation process correctly.
“We need as many people as possible to weigh in behind us and support our campaign by signing our online petition and by making sure the Western Trust are not allowed to abandon vulnerable children.”
“Having met with the Health Minister on Monday, I have received the commitment from Mr Wells that there will be no decision made on the future of the Cottages until he meets with the Western Trust,” SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan told The Derry Journal.
“I have stressed the urgency of this engagement as families are left in despair worrying how they will cope if a local respite service is removed.
“On Friday [today], I am meeting with Elaine Way the CEO of the Western Trust to get the answers these families and indeed the local community deserve. Families feel that the Trust has failed them and they feel the Trust has not met their statutory obligations to consult with the carers about this change in service.
“It is time the Trust started talking to these carers, explaining why it hasn’t engaged with the carers of these children who know better than anyone the devastating impact any scale back in service would have,” said Mr. Durkan.
“This is no longer a request, we are demanding respite services in Derry, we cannot allow carers to reach breaking point. Morally the Western Trust needs to carefully consider how this little saving can cause so much pain. There are other areas that can help balance their books, it certainly cannot be laid at the door of the most vulnerable children in our society,” he warned.
SDLP MLA for Foyle, Pat Ramsey, also attended the meeting and said: “This is one of the most emotive and sensitive issues which affects so many with loved ones who have the most profound and complex needs, who are vulnerable, marginalised and this would be a most unfair, unjust and outrageous decision if approved. The Trust must listen to the voices of many especially the families,” said Mr. Ramsey.
Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle, Maeve McLaughlin, who is also the Chair of the Health Committee, echoed Mr. Gallagher’s call for the people of the city to support the campaign.
“There are examples in other parts of the North recently where people power has led to healthcare trusts reversing decisions. I and indeed Sinn Fein will do everything in our power to help the families and ensure they get the help and support they deserve.”
For more information on ‘The Cottages’ campaign visit the families’ website www.childrenrespite12.wix.com/cottages-campaign where you will be able to sign their petition.
Visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cottages-Respite-Campaign/491941720944908