CARERS of users of an under-threat respite home for people with learning disabilities say council officers do not understand the needs of the people who use it.
WILL BAIN and DAVID DEANS report. FAMILIES of people with learning disabilities who use a respite home in Newport fear council proposals to shut it will have a devastating effect on their relatives.
Newport council is proposing to shut New Willows residential home in Llanwern, used by adults with a learning disability, and replace it with direct payments.
Officers say the move will give service users more choice in their respite care, but parents fear the council does not have a concept of the needs of their children.
Newport council would save £124,000 if the closure is approved in the draft 2013/14 budget, currently out to consultation.
Sheila Parsons, 61, of Rogerstone in Newport, said the idea she could send her daughter Katherine Morgan, 38, away on holiday for a week showed the council had no concept of the needs of people like her daughter.
Miss Morgan, who is cared for by Mrs Parsons and has severe learning disabilities, uses the centre for three to four days a month.
Mrs Parsons said the proposals on the table were ‘woolly’ and said it takes years to build up confidence for herself and Miss Morgan “to go anywhere”.
She said stays at New Willows mean she and her husband can head away for a few days, knowing she is perfectly content.
“The whole point of respite means we are able to relax,” she told the Argus.
“She can’t go on a bus. If they were going to do that they would have to pay for a carer and transport.”
Bettws man Simon Harvey’s brother-in-law, Nigel Atkins, 43, has used the Willows for 18 years.
Mr Atkins has a condition called William Syndrome, a condition which is similar to autism.
Mr Harvey says he and his wife Michelle are concerned about the effect of losing the Willows on both Nigel, and Michelle and Nigel’s father, Edwin, 70, who currently cares for him.
Mr Harvey, said: “Like a lot of people with autism type traits, Nigel needs to feel secure and safe and is not good with change.
“He has been going to the Willows for a long time and has built up trust with them there and we are comfortable knowing he is there, because we know he is safe.
“We spoke to Nigel to explain to him about what might happen and what he would like us to do and he said we had to try and stop the Willows being closed, so that’s what we are going to do.
“We feel like we have to fight this for Nigel and other families who need the Willows.
“We understand there has to be cuts but they are taking away from the most vulnerable people in society and it doesn’t seem fair.”
The consultation runs until February 13.
For more information on the draft budget visit www.newport.gov.uk/budget
‘Difficult’ change will lead to more choice for users
NEWPORT council is aiming to give people greater choice in its changes to respite services for people with learning disabilities, according to a senior officer at the council.
Stuart Greenwell, strategic director of care and customers, said the council is proposing to provide £400 a week directly to families in lieu of the provision at New Willows, Llanwern.
People would have the choice as to how they spend the cash – such as with private organisations that offer respite services, or with an adult placement scheme.
The Newport council website suggests people could spend the money on a holiday or a day trip.
The cash could be worth £1,600 for a person who usually gets four-weeks-a-year respite care at New Willows.
If council decides to approve the closure, the site is not expected to close until 2015/16 and until all alternatives are found.
“We are overall aiming to give people greater choice and improve the experience for people,” said Mr Greenwell.
Mr Greenwell said it was recognised some families were concerned that service users knew New Willows and would not want to go anywhere else.
He added: “The change is a really difficult one to expect people to feel comfortable about.
“What we have got to do is provide people with information to see that there are choices other than New Willows.
“We have some work to do to make sure people have that information.”
Addressing concerns that people are worried about the implications of becoming an employer when arranging care through direct payments, he said the council would have a protected budget for those who don’t want to deal with it themselves.
That would be held for them and officers would discuss it with them, while administration help would be provided.
Mother’s concern for son’s future
JOAN Dowsell, 65 and her husband Tony, 70, also from Bettws, get respite care from the Willows for their son Warren, 43.
Warren has autism, in 2007 he suffered a breakdown and is sectioned under the mental health act.
Mrs Dowsell said she does not think the council properly understands the needs of some of the people who used the Willows.
She said: “Warren has been going to the Willows for 18 years and Tony and I knowhe is safe. He has very complex mental health problems. He has to feel safe.
“He will follow me round the house at home because he needs to be near someone, and we can’t even get him to go to my brother’s house but he would go to the Willows.
“The council are proposing to train up families to look after our children if the Willows closes but no one else would accept him.
“He needs constant care and he does not deal with change well.
“We are absolutely petrified about what might happen to his mental health again if we lose the Willows.
“We get family aid at the moment and we would rather give that up to help pay to keep the Willows open, “I don’t doubt that some of the people at the Willows might be able to accept a change in their care, my son just won’t be able to though.”