CARERS who fear their lives could soon tumble into ‘crisis’ will unite to confront councillors over proposals to close a respite centre for disabled adults.
The clash will come on Monday as families from across Hampshire speak out at a council meeting set to discuss the future of Orchard Close on Hayling Island.
Currently, the 13-bedroom site in Westfield Avenue offers short seaside breaks for people with a range of physical and learning disabilities.
But Hampshire County Council's director of adult social care, Graham Allen, has recommended it is closed ahead of a vote on February 27 – despite a public consultation into the proposal yielding a 96.4 per cent opposition from 479 responses.
No Orchard Close users who took part in the survey supported the plans – and Dave Humphries from Waterlooville will give a deputation against them on Monday.
The 47-year-old’s stepson, Joe, has a severe global development delay and has used Orchard Close for three years, since he turned 18.
‘We rely on this respite because it is the vital break that enables us to continue caring,' Mr Humphries said.
‘If we put Joe into another provision, particularly one where he is not happy that triggers his emotional behaviour, we won’t get respite because we will be permanently stressed.
‘That could be the difference between continuing to care, and saving the council money, or Joe going into full residential care and us going into crisis.’
The potential loss of Orchard Close comes after the council approved a £1m cut to its £2.4m Short Breaks service for children with special needs in July.
There is a covenant on the land which specifies that it must be used for services for people with learning disabilities.
Amanda Coker from Havant, whose 21-year-old son Jake also attends Orchard Close, said the authority has shown it does not have ‘any idea’ of the difficulties carers and families face as it pursues avenues to save £140m-a-year.
‘We don’t get any support, just constant reviews and cuts,' she said.
‘I really wish they would come and spend a few days walking in my shoes to see how difficult our lives are.’
Mr Humphries has described Monday’s meeting as a ‘last chance saloon’ for carers to articulate their concerns over the future of Orchard Close.
Cllr Liz Fairhurst, the council’s executive member for adult social care and health, said decisions like its closure are ‘never easy’ but she understands the ‘very important role’ respite care plays for people being looked after and those caring for them.
‘In terms of the respite service provided at Orchard Close, it’s important to stress that at this stage, no final decisions have been made on its future,’ she said.
‘Before doing so, I will take full account of the feedback from those who responded to our public consultation and I am very grateful to everyone who took the time to share their views with us.
‘I will also consider any additional recommendations that may come from the county councillors who are meeting on Monday to scrutinise the proposal from the authority’s adult social care service, to close the respite accommodation.
‘However, I would like to point out that whatever decision is taken – all individuals who are eligible for respite support – will continue to receive it.
‘My role is to ensure the county council meets the needs of all those who qualify for adult social care support – in the best way possible – within the resources available to us. This is a responsibility which I take very seriously.’
The land Orchard Close is built on is protected by a covenant which specifies it must be used for services for people with learning disabilities.