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20 September 2010, 06:00
Mark and Joy Cavanagh - take their 15 year-old son Steven - who has severe learning difficulties - to the Foxgloves Respite Care Centre in Bedford.
It provides short term break overnight provision and daytime social club facilities for children with disabilities and complex needs.
Mum Joy told HEART about the difficulties they have as parents even with the Respite care - and how they may not be able to cope with having to look after their son 24/7 as home-help is either so limited or nothing's suitable in the first place:
"for us as a couple, it would be difficult getting out because you can't find baby sitters who have the training or ability to look after someone like Steven who has such severe learning difficulties".
Dad Mark told us, the plans to close Foxgloves, would not only break-up the family - but just doesn't make economic sense: "Most of us have such challenging children, much as we don't want to do it we may end up with our children having to go into care.
And at £250,000 to look after a child in foster or other care - it doesn't take many children before you've wasted that £500,000 saving."
The Council say they have to look very carefully at the cost to taxpayers, and Foxgloves is financially unsustainable.
The Borough Council's Executive have no considered the proposal to consult on the closure of Foxgloves.
Although children from both Bedford Borough and Central Beds use Foxgloves, the current occupancy rate is only 55%. The service is regulated by Ofsted, and is required to provide a minimum standard of staffing, therefore low occupancy results in high unit costs.
Foxgloves currently costs Borough taxpayers £830,000 per anuum to run, of which £232,000 is currently contributed by Central Beds, leaving a net cost to the Borough of around £600,000. It is estimated that alternative provision would cost around £100,000 per annum, therefore closure will save Borough taxpayers £500,000 per annum.
If the proposal to close Foxgloves is confirmed (later this year/early next year), care packages will continue to be provided using alternative settings, such as short term foster care, specialist child minders, carer support in child's own home, and selected by parents using direct payments.
Before any final decision is taken there will be a period of consultation, in which views will be welcomed on possible alternative means of continuing to provide the same type of provision.
Children's Services Portfolio Holder Cllr David Sawyer said: "High quality respite care is an essential part of life for children with severe learning difficulties. Under this proposal, we will continue to provide respite care, but in a variety of different settings, selecting the type of support that best meets the needs of the children and their families.
In the current financial climate, we do have to look very carefully at the cost to our taxpayers, and Foxgloves is financially unsustainable. Most other local authorities that offer this type of respite care are also reviewing their service provision.
All change is unsettling, but it is especially disruptive for vulnerable children and families, and we will do everything that we can to ease the transition. In addition to consulting with staff, we have already written to explain these proposals to all families that currently use Foxgloves, both residential and non-residential support. I will make sure that we work with individual families and children to ensure that the best possible care packages are provided."