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Ipswich: Carers are at “breaking point” warns charity

11:55 22 February 2013

Barbara Thorn, chief of Mencap, has warned parents of children with learning disabilities are at

Barbara Thorn, chief of Mencap, has warned parents of children with learning disabilities are at 'breaking point' because of a lack of respite care. Barbara with her children, Ian, Dorothy and John Thorn and Sarah Woods

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PARENTS caring for children with learning disabilities are at “breaking point” crumbling under the pressure and desperately in need of more support, an Ipswich-based charity has warned.

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More carers are reaching crisis point according to chairman of Ipswich Mencap, Barbara Thorn – herself a carer to three of her adult children who all have Down’s Syndrome.

A report published by Mencap said eight in 10 people who care for loved ones with a learning disability feel they do not get the respite or support they need.

Despite the Government allocating funds for carers to have short breaks from their caring responsibilities, the money was not ring fenced and as a result is being spent elsewhere, the learning disability charity said.

The Short Breaks report claims that 8% of family carers did not receive any short breaks whatsoever in the last year.

Mrs Thorn said it is “vital” ministers ring-fence the money intended for short breaks – a lifeline for many carers.

The mum-of-five, of Norwich Road, said parents were facing more pressures, compounded by the uncertainty over changes to the disability living allowance (DLA) mooted by the Government.

“I think parents are at breaking point,” she told The Star.

“Part of that is the uncertainty over finances, which are all changing. We don’t know what is happening to DLA but the plans are to bring in a universal benefit.

“It is a great worry for me as a mum-of-three in receipt of the benefit.”

She added: “Respite care is a vital commodity for parents and carers, without it many would crumble under the strain.”

In Ipswich the charity operates Burgess House in Felixstowe Road and The Bungalow in Edmonton Road, Kesgrave, offering a total of 12 respite beds.

But Mrs Thorn said both are operating at “full capacity” leaving the charity unable to respond to emergency requests for beds.

“I know of a mum in Ipswich whose son has very complex needs,” she added.

“She has never been offered respite care. I have referred her to the council for an assessment to try and get her some help.

“Being a carer isn’t just a full-time job, it is their life.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “The county council recognises the importance of short breaks and respite care for family carers, which is why we are committed to working very closely with both family carers and respite providers to ensure that the right level of support is provided.

“Many carers benefit from personalised respite budgets which allow them to have greater flexibility and choice when it comes to planning short breaks and respite care.

“If families at some point feel that the level of support offered is not sufficient they are offered a review and there is a option of increasing support if appropriate.”

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