Cabinet decides on the future of St. Christopher’s and Lowenna Redwing

Cabinet was particularly difficult today with the Cabinet making the final decision on the future of St. Christopher’s and Lowenna Redwing Residential Short Break centres. The whole process has not been easy, either for myself, Council officers and the families who will be affected.  Any change to service provision can lead to a lot of anxiety because the need for regular short break provision is always highly valued by parents and carers.

The changes to the service is due to the massive reduction in available funding. This results in having to look at delivering the service with less money. Those 35 families and 27 staff who will be affected by the closures are going to find the decision difficult. I understand that, and I want to reassure people there will still be a service. However this might be delivered in a different location, by a different method – like direct payments, or some of the other short break provision.

In todays Cabinet report, the original recommendation was to close both St. Christopher’s and Lowenna on the 1st June. However, I have listened to parents and carers; read and re-read the consultation responses, and with this I feel that  recommendation to close both centres in June should be extended.  This will allow those affected by the decision to have more time to adapt to the changes leading up to both centres closure.

With this amendment, the Cabinet vote unanimously to close both St. Christopher’s and Lowenna Redwing on the 1st September.  It is important to say, even though these centres will close, the individual needs of those affected will be met after assessment.

I really wish it was different, but we have to adapt and services will change as there is just less money to go around. And with less money I want to make sure we as a Council help as many people as possible despite the dwindling resources.

My previous blog on this subject is found HERE

Recommendations for the future of the Residential Short Break Service

The review on the residential short-break service for disabled children has travelled a long way in the last few months. This review has been undertaken because the service needs to be delivered differently as there is less money to go around. I have said it many times before; I wish it was different, but it is not.  In the coming years, most services will either see a reduction, a different delivery model, or sadly stopping all together.

Currently the Council operates six short break centres in Cornwall; and this provides residential short breaks to over 160 disabled children. The cost of running this service is £3m. Overall the Council spends £10.5m on services to support children with educational needs and disabilities.

The proposal is to close St. Christopher’s and Lowenna Redwing. This will affect 35 families and 27 staff. The residential short breaks needs to save roughly £600k from a £3m budget. Here is the REPORT  and recommendations which were presented to the PAC today.

As part of the democratic process the proposals were discussed at the Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee (CYP PAC). The report detailing the proposals was given a vigorous challenge. This was to make sure the proposals would not leave any young person who needs the service without access to provision. The PAC rightly pointed out that they wished things were different and challenged many points in the report.

There was a moot point of members of the public were not allowed to address the committee. They may have felt this was unfair, and generally the public is allowed to submit questions to the PAC. It is just on this meeting it was an extraordinary meeting, and there are no public questions. You might think it is too much process, but when you play fast and loose with the rules, you tend to come unstuck. However, there had been a lot of representation from parents which had been fed into the report.

I want to make it clear that by reducing the number of buildings the Council operates this service; people will still get a short break service. It just might be delivered in a different location, or by another method. I want to reassure people no child will be left without any provision they need. I know this is a worrying time for parents and carers, and from the correspondence I have read, I totally understand the concerns.

The following are the final recommendations that had the support of the PAC. It will be these recommendations I will be presenting and recommending to the Cabinet on the 29th January. It will be up to the Cabinet who will make the final decision.

  1. That the content and outcome of the Cornwall Council Review of Short Break Services for Disabled Children and Young People, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, be endorsed. 
  2. That the outcome of the consultation meetings with staff and parents/carers, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report, be noted.
  3. That, following the relevant children’s needs being re-assessed and suitable alternative provision being identified and implemented including crisis placement, the proposal as outlined in Paragraph 1.5 of the report to close St. Christopher’s (Redruth), including Lowenna Redwing (Truro), be approved.
  4. The Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee requests that Cabinet recommends to Council a waiver to the Council policy on capital receipts that would allow the receipts from any sale to be reinvested in short breaks provision.

Recommendation to Corporate Director for Children Schools and Families:

  1. The Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee is concerned that there may not be sufficient capacity in family based short breaks. The Portfolio Advisory Committee recommends that the Children Schools and Families Directorate prioritise short breaks provision as part of its Medium Term Financial Review process. 

Many will think the Council is being cruel in reducing this provision. This is not true, as the Council has to change services because there is simply less money to go around. The last point I want to dismiss is the Council is not reducing the service because it wants to make a profit from the sale of the buildings. This is not how the Council or the Children’s Service operates.