THE CLOSURE of a respite centre for people with disabilities could have a ‘devastating’ effect on families.
That is the warning from carers as Hampshire County Council (HCC) takes the future of Orchard Close on Hayling Island to consultation.
The 13-bedroom Westfield Avenue site offers short seaside breaks for adults with physical and learning difficulties in a ‘hotel-like' environment.
But its offering has been thrust into uncertainty after HCC last week announced it was opening the floor for 12 weeks of public discussion on a proposal to close it.
Joanne Port from Havant, a full-time carer to her 25-year-old son, said Orchard Close has become a ‘lifeline’ to her family.
‘This consultation really worries me because if Orchard Close shuts down, it could devastate the families who use it,’ the 58-year-old said.
‘My son Daniel has severe learning difficulties and autism and he has been visiting the centre for the past six years – it’s like a holiday for him.
‘That time of respite I get when he is there for a few days at a time is so important to me because it helps me recuperate.
‘But it’s also so important for him – to get away from home and have the independence to go and enjoy the activities the staff put on.'
The consultation comes as HCC looks to save £140m-a-year to balance its budget.
As part of the operation, the authority approved a £1m cut to its £2.4m Short Breaks service for children with special needs in July – following a period of consultation.
One carer from Denmead, whose son attends Orchard Close and wishes to remain anonymous, fears the closure is already a ‘done deal’.
They said: ‘My son is not a budget and the trouble with this sort of cost cutting is that if HCC don’t support carers of adults with learning difficulties, it will cost them more in the longer term when we reach crisis point.
‘There are currently 13 beds at Orchard Close. If it closes, this will leave 24 for all of Hampshire.’
Councillor Liz Fairhurst, HCC’s executive member for adult social care and health, said the consultation comes amid ‘changing’ regional patterns in respite care access – with ‘many turning to bespoke community based options’.
She added: ‘It is important to stress no decisions on the future of the building will be taken until full and detailed consultation has taken place with those who use the service, their families and carers.
‘Should closure take place, all those requiring respite care from the county council, would continue to receive it.’
Anyone wishing to take part in the consultation should visit hants.gov.uk/orchard before the closing date of December 21.
Findings from the consultation will form a final decision when they are published and presented to Cllr Fairhurst on February 27, 2019.