The Courier

Families of disabled children call MSPs to “last resort” meeting over respite cuts

Allan is a carer for three children: Ronald Sinclair aged 11, Megan Sinclair, aged nine and Poppy Petrie, aged four.

Parents of disabled children have called for a meeting with 19 MSPs from Tayside and Fife in a “last resort” bid to reverse cuts to respite care.

The Glenlaw Parent/Carer Group wants the “real decision makers” to hear first-hand how cuts at Glenlaw House in Dundee are affecting families, some of whom care for multiple children with complex needs.

The respite centre, based at Kings Cross Hospital, provides overnight care for children aged up to 18 with profound learning disabilities.

Families say the number of beds has been reduced in the past five years from six to just two during the week and four at weekends, with no emergency beds.

NHS Tayside says it has been forced to limit the number of beds for safety reasons, due to difficulties in recruiting staff.

Allen Petrie, chairman of the campaign group, has now written to MSPs in Dundee, Angus, Perth and Kinross and Fife, inviting them to talks in St Ninian’s Church on September 28.

Mr Petrie, who is a carer for three children, said: “NHS Tayside have said these cuts are temporary. However they said the same thing after every other cut to bed provision in the past yet more cuts in beds have been made.

“This is now a last resort, a call to meet with the real decision makers, so they can hear first-hand what effect these cuts are having.”

A petition to increase respite care and stop cuts from possibly closing the service altogether has attracted around 5,500 signatures.

Mr Petrie cares for three grandchildren, including nine-year-old Megan, who has a severe learning disability called FOXG1 Syndrome, and her brother Ronald who has ADHD and PTSD.

He said: “Respite is not only a chance to recover from the exhausting work of caring for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but for families to give attention to their other children, who often miss out on activities they want to do.

“Without respite, the needs of these children will end up neglected.”

Dr Karen Naismith, lead consultant for children’s complex disability services at NHS Tayside, said the reduction in beds was down to staffing shortages.

“The facility is registered with the Care Inspectorate due to its unique position of being a health facility providing respite care and it is required to have a certain staff to patient ratio,” she said.

“There have been significant challenges recruiting to vacant posts within the complex disability service and this has meant that the number of beds that we can safely operate at Glenlaw House has been reduced.

She said health bosses would seek a meeting with the parents and carers to explain the situation, adding: “This change in service provision is driven by challenges recruiting to nursing positions. As soon as we recruit to all our vacancies we hope to increase our beds accordingly.”