Mark and Riven Vincent asked for extra respite care from South Gloucestershire Council to help them cope with looking after their daughter Holly, who has some severe disabilities. They were turned down. As a result they feel unable to cope and they plan to place Holly is residential care.
Mrs Vincent says:
“The care at the moment costs £15 per hour which is £90 per week but they’re not going to increase it for us. If Holly has to go into a residential home it will cost £2,000 to £3,000 per week. It’s crazy.”
She feels let down as she met David Cameron before the election and he told her that it would make sense for people in her position to get more respite care. This is a promise he is keeping with an extra £20 million for respite care – coming from some of the savings from scrapping the Child Trust Fund. The change takes place in April – but that could be too little too late for Holly. South Gloucestershire aren't cutting their support in this area in general or to this particular family. But they haven't given extra help.
I have rung the press office at South Gloucestershire Council to ask for their comments and will update this post with any they provide. Generally the council has a good record on Children's Services and this budget paper is encouraging. It says:
Children and Young People – This department is expected to be overspent by £200K by the year end. This is mainly due to a significant increase in the cost of Independent Foster Placements. In the second quarter there were 8 new placements which increased to total cost by £220K and there is a risk that there will be further fostering or residential placements during the year. CYP are taking action to mitigate the risk of further overspends by allowing more freedom to individual young people under the guidance of a specialist company to prepare themselves for leaving care, offering care and financial benefits directly to the parents of disabled children and giving further resources to the Pupil Referral Unit to avoid residential placements. A provision of £0.5M for CYP Looked After Children was made in the budget and is held centrally. A decision as to its deployment will be made later in the year once the effectiveness of CYP’s management action has been assessed.
Naturally none of this stops the Mirror splashing on the story as a scandal about "cuts."
However it would be right for spending on respite care to be increased further. This would be in the interests of the children and families concerned. But is also quite likely that extra spending in this area would allow lower spending on residential care for the reason Mrs Vincent gave. Where Mrs Vincent is wrong is thinking hat ring fencing is the answer. On the contrary what she, and South Gloucestershire Council Taxpayers need, is "joined up Government". The link between respite care spending and residential care spending needs to be acknowledged – rather than treated as different pots.
"We have been supporting Mrs Vincent and her family since shortly after Celyn was born ensuring they receive the care they need from ourselves and the local NHS.
"This package of care is reviewed regularly and has increased according to need over the last six years. There have been no reductions in the care provided to Celyn and her family.
"Needs were last reviewed in November 2010, however, Mrs Vincent contacted the Council yesterday to ask for further help. A meeting has been arranged to discuss her requirements.
"The family receives a wide range of services and direct funding from the council and the local NHS. These services include a full time specialist school placement; specialist equipment; individual support for Celyn and funding for additional help around the home; a home nursing service; respite service during the school holidays and overnight, and music therapy."
"South Gloucestershire Council understands the difficulties facing parents of disabled children, particularly those with complex needs such as Celyn's. The council has worked with local parents of disabled children to increase the range of services to meet the local need, including short breaks which are an important aspect of support to keep children at home. We recognise that there are times when difficulties can appear overwhelming and we hope that we can resolve the present difficulties in the best interest of the family."