Respite unit is our ‘lifeline’ says father

The Cottages Respite Care, Dungiven Road, Derry. DER4914MC059
The Cottages Respite Care, Dungiven Road, Derry. DER4914MC059

The father of a 15 year-old boy who uses a children’s respite cottage in Shepherd Way in Derry has said if the facility was to be taken away he would struggle to put what it would mean for his family into words.

Frank Gallagher’s son Eoin is undiagnosed but has profound Global Developmental Delay (GDD) which means his mental age does not develop at the same rate of his physical growth.

“Eoin is like a fully grown 15 year-old boy who inside is eight or nine months old,” said Frank.

The six bed respite facility provides short-term respite care for children with different levels of learning difficulties.

The unit provides support to children aged between five and 18 years-old.

After a meeting between SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H. Durkan and the families of the children who use the cottages facility it was reported that the future of the unit was in danger.

Frank described the respite unit as his family’s “lifeline” and said any move to close it would put great “shame” upon Derry.

“It’s hard to even describe what losing respite would mean, not just to us but to any carer. It’s a life line, and frankly it’s how you cope.

“The demands of caring are by nature just relentless it’s quite easy to be overwhelmed at times as you consider a future of just more of the same, and respite gives you that break from the constancy of it all.

“We all love our kids and every one of them are angels here on this planet, but the sad fact is families break up coping with these demands, even when properly supported. There are few parallels 
in any other aspect of healthcare, all of which makes the current plans for deliberated further cuts incomprehensible.”

He continued: “My wife and I no longer see our own families as we used to, I seldom see my own mother who is also not well and our own family unit relies totally on respite time for any ‘normal’ family activities.

“It shames us all, it shames our city, it shames these decision makers that this service is even under consideration for further cuts,” he said.

Local MLA, Mark H. Durkan has been liaising with the families affected and he said that he is working closely with the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) to ensure the respite unit remains intact.

“These parents and carers are saving the health service thousands of pounds currently by providing the daily care their children desperately need. Without an adequate respite programme for these families, the Trust could be putting at risk the mental 
and physical wellbeing of these carers. I am working closely with families and 
the Trust to ensure this vital service is protected to alleviate the despair and anxiety these families are experiencing. We cannot leave 
these families in this desperation, many of which are at breaking point, intervention is needed urgently to secure the service and to protect service users.”

Mark H. Durkan will 
accompany many of the 
families affected by the respite unit’s uncertainty in a meeting with representatives from the WHSCT. For up-to-date information on the meeting, visit