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Protest gathers pace over closure plans for short-break respite care unit in Ludlow Road, Kidderminster

Affected families and supporters gathered at Kidderminster Town Hall on Saturday to protest against plans to close a short-breaks unit which provides vital respite for the parents of severely disabled children across Worcestershire.

Hundreds of shoppers added their names to a petition against the closure of the unit in Ludlow Road, Kidderminster, which has been proposed by Worcestershire County Council as part of cost cutting measures.

Families and supporters gather at Kidderminster Town Hall to oppose plans to close the Ludlow Road unit in a service redesign.    Image courtesy of Caroline O’Callaghan

The council says it needs to find £600,000 to run the six-bed healthcare unit this year – previously the unit was funded from the Public Health Ring-fenced Grant but now full funding falls to the council.

Today angry parents joined local Labour group members to raise awareness about the issue.

In a joint statement parents said:

“We’re calling on Worcestershire County Council to maintain funding for Ludlow Road, Kidderminster, NHS Short Breaks Service.
Ludlow Road provides essential respite and medical care to the most vulnerable, disabled children in the county. To close the unit will have a detrimental impact on the children and their families.”

Stephen Brown, media officer for Wyre Forest Labour, said: “We’re talking about a unique NHS facility in Kidderminster that does an incredible job for the disabled children in their care and for their families. It’s a home from home for the children with the strongest bond of trust and confidence imaginable that should never be broken. It can take the parents and children considerable time to settle, establish the levels of trust required so that both feel comfortable.

“Worcestershire County Council needs to listen to the parents and respect their wishes and keep it open. Some 23 families rely on this home to give them respite. The Council needs to realise that it has a duty to keep it open and work with partner organisations like the NHS & Wyre Forest Clinical Commissioning Group to find the money to provide a long term solution.”

He added: “If our elected politicians fail to protect our most vulnerable people then they really need to ask themselves what it is they think they’re achieving as politicians. We are at a crossroads and they can still do the right thing by these parents and children by saving Ludlow Road.”

Parent Emma Grantham said:

“To take away Ludlow Road now from my daughter Millie would be devastating.

“It has taken Millie two years to build up the trust she needed to go and spend time away from home. I know that moving her now would mean she would never cope. Her needs have changed so much in the past 18 months and the girls at Ludlow Road have done everything they could to make life better for her. We need Ludlow Road, our children need Ludlow Road.”

Parent Clare Neal added: “Ludlow Road is a lifeline to our family! My son Sam receives 24 hour medical care from qualified staff when he stays. Knowing he is safe enables us to recharge our batteries and continue caring.”

Carol & Kevin Paddock, whose son Joshua goes to Ludlow Road, said “We are devastated Worcestershire County Council are even considering the closure of Ludlow Road, which provides essential respite for families with disabled children. Our son has formed strong friendships here and the setting is perfect for the nature of these children.

“The closure of Ludlow Road will have disastrous consequences for us as a family, together with all other current families and future families that will be in need of such a wonderful facility.”

The families have been rallied by parent Amanda Danby, who first spoke about the issue to your Wyrelife earlier this week.

The families of severely disabled children are legally entitled to receive at least three nights of respite care a month. This is to help support family life and to ensure carers have a short break from the demands of providing 24 hour care.

The service review under way will next be investigated by the county council’s own cross-party Children and Families Scrutiny Panel, although a single councillor, Andy Roberts, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, has been designated the power to make the final decision without further consultation with full council. The full report to the council Cabinet about the consultation, including background information, can be viewed here on page 45 onwards.

To take part in the consultation please click on this link: Ludlow Road consultation

The map below shows the location of each of the existing four short break units for children, with a brief description including number of available beds for short breaks and disabilities catered for.  Click here for interactive map and descriptions

Jane Haynes
Former newspaper journalist and news editor, turned public sector PR, now studying for a Master's in multiplatform journalism. Wyrelife is a new, local investigative news website for Kidderminster, Bewdley, Stourport and Wyre Forest. My aim is to hold people and organisations to account to try to make my little bit of England a better informed, better place.