Opportunity of respite care so important for families

COMMENT: All agencies must to held to account for Anne Savidge’s tragic death

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It’s impossible to imagine what it must be like to be a parent caring for a child with severe disabilities.

But what we can say is that all the usual stresses and strains of normal family life pale into insignificance in comparison.

Of course parents in that position show tremendous love and devotion to sons and daughters who come to rely so totally on them.

But the unremitting demands of such care can leave them mentally and physically exhausted and desperately in need of a break – and that’s where Smile Support and Care comes in.

The charity wants to create a respite centre for young people with severe disabilities that could help thousands of families across the south by giving them precious time and space in which to relax and rejuvenate.

Smile founder Steven Clarke knows only too well the need for such a facility.

His son Sebastian, who died in 2004 aged 14, had a genetic disease and the family found it challenging to co-ordinate respite care via different agencies.

Steven’s dream is of a place where families can come and stay for a night or up to a week and where children are looked after while their parents and siblings can enjoy the countryside or just relax.

People like Louise Bush from Southsea, whose eight-year-old son Joel has severe autism and requires constant supervision.

Well, that long-held dream is nearing reality. Construction is already under way on the site next to Rachel Madocks School in Cowplain after Smile raised an amazing £2.9m through grants and private donations.

But to finish and equip the centre, the charity needs another £500,000.

As Stuart Baldwin, chief executive of Smile, says: ‘The commitment to building this centre is in recognition of the fact that respite is the service most often requested by family care givers, yet it is in critically short supply.’

We think it’s a fantastic cause and urge people to give whatever they can to help so that the centre can be up and running by spring next year.