Children's respite centres face closure
The closure of two residential centres in Cornwall that provide short breaks for disabled children and young people will carry a significant financial and emotional impact, according to a leading disability charity.
Cornwall Council is proposing to close St Christopher's in Redruth and Red Wing in Truro as part of a raft of cuts to save £24 million in its next draft budget. The centres are among six run by the council giving overnight short breaks for 163 disabled children and young people in the county.
The unitary authority spends around £10.5 million on services to support children with special educational needs and disabilities, but is reviewing the closure on top of the £17 million already cut from its Children's Services budget in the last four years.
A spokesman for Disability Cornwall said that respite facilities are a vital source of "much-needed" support for families of disabled people.
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He said: "The key function of local authorities is to provide social care support to those who need it. If any services are to be removed, they then have a duty to suggest suitable alternatives for the people affected.
"During this time of unprecedented cuts to local authority budgets, we appreciate the council have to save money, but feel this will lead to greater costs in the future and cause untold difficulty and stress to families already under enormous pressure.
"These breaks are extremely valuable to families and without them; pressure will increase significantly, both financially and emotionally.
"Those responsible for the possible closure of such services should visit and know these centres, meet the parents and children who use them and truly understand their value." Cornwall Council estimates it will have to cut a further £196 million from its budget by 2019 due to further reductions in Government funding.
An informal consultation is being carried out on the future of the two homes and will be reported to the Children and Young Peoples Portfolio Advisory Committee on November 11.
A council spokesman said further consultations will be carried out with families and staff before final proposals are made to cabinet in January.
He said: "The recent review of the residential short break services noted that the service meets the needs of a relatively static population of children and has high unit costs in comparison with national averages.
"One of the recommendations from the review is to close St. Christopher's and Lowenna Redwing. While we recognise that this would have a significant impact on the families who use these units and the staff who work there, this proposal is considered to be the least disruptive in terms of service provision.
"We recognise that any change is unsettling."