Family in wrangle over respite care

THE mother of a woman with severe learning disabilities has hit out after she was denied sufficient access to a flagship respite centre.

THE mother of a woman with severe learning disabilities has hit out after she was denied sufficient access to a flagship respite centre.

Until she turned 18 last week, Katie Rees had received fortnightly respite care at the Monksfield centre for young people in Hexham, but because she is now classed as an adult, she has to move to another centre that caters for her needs.

Her mother, Samantha, thought the perfect solution lay at the Alan Shearer Centre, in Newcastle’s West End, relatively close to the family home in Haydon Bridge, and a visit confirmed that it met all Katie’s needs.

But Mrs Rees said she had been left shocked by the level of respite care her daughter had been offered at the centre by Northumberland Care Trust.

She said: “Adult services have decided that we can have one week per year, which works out at about one night of respite every seven weeks and is clearly not sufficient.

“At Monksfield, she had one night a fortnight and an extra week during the year.

“Alan Shearer put a lot of money into this resource and it provides a fantastic service for families like us, but what is the point if Northumberland Care Trust cannot fund children like my daughter.

“It’s a disgrace because there is nowhere else suitable for my daughter’s needs. We are absolutely desperate for respite and feel that one night every seven weeks is pathetic.”

There are about 1,200 families in need of regular respite care across the North-East.

Mrs Rees, who cares for her daughter with her husband Stephen, said respite was particularly important as it allowed them to spend time with their son, Caleb, 10.

She added that her frustration had been increased by the fact that the decision had been made without the family meeting with, or speaking on the phone to, a care trust representative.

She said: “This needs to be highlighted because adult services make these decisions about families like us without even meeting us or speaking to us on phone. After all the money Alan Shearer put into it, I think its disgusting that local people cannot use the facility.

“I have written to the care trust, and I also intend to write to Alan Shearer so that he is aware of the situation.”

Peter Atkinson, the family’s MP, said: “Effectively this means no respite for the parents.

“The fact is that families like this, who care for their relatives at home, save what would be a 365-days-a-year financial burden.

“This is a large and growing problem, particularly as we are growing more elderly, and it is something that needs addressing.”

There are no set national guidelines for how much respite a carer should get, with each case being assessed on an individual basis.

Northumberland County Council has responsibility for the allocation of respite care through the Northumberland Care Trust.

A spokesman for both organisations said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases. However in situations where someone is new to adult care, we always arrange for an assessment of an individual’s needs before establishing what level of care is required.

“If an individual asks for support while this assessment is being undertaken, we would always endeavour to provide assistance, but it would be an interim arrangement and subject to all of the information being available on which to make longer-term plans.”

Alan Shearer donated £320,000 towards the centre from his testimonial match.

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