Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, has spoken out in Parliament about the importance of short breaks provision, also known as respite care, for children with learning disabilities, and their families.
Speaking during the Second Reading of the Children and Families Bill in the Commons yesterday (25th February), Catherine praised the work of the Cheviot View short breaks unit, based in Newbiggin Hall in her constituency, and Castle Dene in South Gosforth used by many of her constituents – having strongly urged Newcastle City Council to retain these services as part of her submission to the Council’s consultation on its 2013-2016 budget proposals.
The Children and Families Bill includes proposals to provide the families of children and young people with Special Educational Needs with ‘personal budgets’ to spend on support services, and will require local authorities to publish a ‘local offer’ of the support available to these families. Catherine questioned how this will actually deliver an improvement in support available at a time when local authorities, including Newcastle, are facing severe funding cuts.
“We all want to see improvements in the services available to support children and young people with Special Educational Needs and learning disabilities, as it is all too often the case this provision isn’t up to scratch. Any support that is available is often also extremely hard fought for by parents.
“I know that services such as those provided by Cheviot View and Castle Dene in Newcastle provide an absolute lifeline for many, offering often exhausted and isolated families with much-needed respite. They also offer children and young people with a wide range of different and complex needs the chance to develop friendships, independence and the opportunity to take part in activities which they simply wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.
“Yet a recent report by Mencap found that a deeply worrying eight out of ten family carers nationally are reaching breaking point, due to a lack of breaks from caring, whilst short breaks provision is being cut or reduced up and down the country.
“It is simply unclear how the Government’s laudable intentions to improve the services and support available to these families will actually be delivered at a time when local authorities, and particularly those with the highest needs such as Newcastle, are facing disproportionate and unfair funding cuts. There is little point in offering children, young people and families ‘personal budgets’ if the services they would wish to access no longer exist in their local areas.”
A full transcript of Catherine’s speech can be read here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130225/debtext/130225-0003.htm#130225-0003.htm_spnew35
Mencap’s report into short breaks provision can be read here: http://www.mencap.org.uk/campaigns/take-action/breaking-point