On Air Now
Heart's Feel Good Weekend with Lilah Parsons 10pm - 1am
22 March 2019, 08:41 | Updated: 22 March 2019, 08:46
Parents of disabled children in Essex are fighting planned cuts to respite care in the county.
The overnight residential respite services temporarily take on children's care - relieving families of their usual caring responsibilities and giving them a break.
Currently Essex County Council runs specialist homes in Harlow and Colchester, both of which have two flats.
Campaigners from Save Our Respite Essex are worried that could be reduced to one flat in each home - reducing the number of beds available.
"We're not being supported," one protestor told Heart.
"A lot of us have been in the situation where families are breaking down or splitting up - they just cannot cope with life.
"New families can't even get respite. They're being told that there's no need for it."
Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "I’d like to thank members of the public for taking the time to share their concerns about proposed changes to overnight respite services in Essex with me.
"We recognise how important these services are to families and I’d like to reassure them that no long-terms decisions have been made about the future of the Maples Centre in Harlow and Lavender House in Colchester.
"The number of families that use residential respite care in Essex has fallen and proposed changes to provision - moving from two flats to one at each home - is in response to this reduced demand.
"Having two fully-staffed flats at each site which are open but under-used limits our ability to develop other services for families. Providing services from one flat in each home will mean we are still able to maintain our current level of operation and continue to offer short breaks for all families receiving care at both homes. No families will be left worse off as a result.
"Our priority is to continue providing a high quality, efficient and responsive overnight respite service that supports children and young people to thrive. It is important the voices of local parents and carers continue to be heard and fed into all of our decision-making."