Anger at lack of respite care

By Patrick LowmanANGRY charity leaders have hit out at the lack of long-term and respite care being provided for adults with learning disabilities in parts of East Anglia.

By Patrick Lowman

ANGRY charity leaders have hit out at the lack of long-term and respite care being provided for adults with learning disabilities in parts of East Anglia.

Peter Stagg, chairman of the Helping Hands charity group, felt Suffolk County Council "should hang its head is shame" over the lack of facilities provided for the adults with learning difficulties and their carers.

His frustrations are shared by the Mencap group, which has launched a national campaign urging people to contact their MPs about the problems.

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Mr Stagg, who has a 41-year-old Down Syndrome son, Mark, has hit out because recent changes in the law means there is no longer any respite beds for adults with learning disabilities in the Sudbury area.

The Dell, at Cats Lane, Sudbury, provides long-term care for adults with learning disabilities, but has had to close its three respite care beds because new regulations say those needing long-term care can no longer be accommodated with those requiring short-term care.

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This means those needing respite in the Sudbury area now have to go units in Bury St Edmunds or Newmarket.

Mr Stagg, 75, whose charity group raises funds for the Sudbury Resource Centre, a day centre which provides facilities for around 50 adults with learning difficulties, said: "Most of us who are caring for adults with learning disabilities are getting older and we need more help than what is available.

"We want the peace of mind of knowing that when we pass away our children will be cared for, and in an area what they are familiar with.

"At the moment there are no long-term vacancies in the Sudbury area, so they can be sent anywhere in the county where they will not know anybody.

"We have also now lost the respite beds in Sudbury and these are vital because people at our age need a break.

"The only respite beds available to us now are in Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket and even at those facilities you have to give a year's notice for a weeks respite. Suffolk County Council should hang its head in shame because it is doing nothing to help us."

Terry Green, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for adult care and health, said: "We are aware that there are concerns about the provision of respite care in this area of Suffolk and we are working with parents, carers and voluntary organisations to find possible solutions.

"A project group of representatives from these groups has met recently and will be investigating issues around respite provision this summer.

"We hope that by working with our partners in health and elsewhere, there will be sufficient progress to offer the support required by families needing respite care as soon as possible."

This week Mencap has also published the findings of its national survey Breaking Point, which has revealed eight out of 10 carers have reached breaking point.

It states tens of thousands of families caring for people with severe or profound learning disabilities at home are in crisis due to a lack of support from local authorities.

Mencap chief executive Jo Williams said: "We want local authorities to urgently address the needs of these families. We want the Government to do a lot more to monitor what local authorities are doing and put more money into learning disability services to ease pressure on local authorities."

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