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Local mum backs call for government to fund disabled children’s services

Frome mum Helen Piper is backing a call from a group of charities for the government to commit to vital funding for short break or respite services for families with disabled children.

New research published by the Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign recently published shows that more than half of local authorities have cut spending on short breaks (respite services) for families with disabled children since 2011/12. The research also shows that families are reporting it is more difficult to access short breaks.

The group of charities that make up the EDCM campaign are warning of the economic and social consequences if local authorities are forced to make further cuts to short breaks services and are calling on the Chancellor to renew the government’s commitment to investing in short break services in this autumn’s spending review as he did in 2010.

Short breaks services provide a lifeline for families with disabled children, helping to hold families together and opening up the world to their disabled children, giving them independence.

Short breaks are proven to lower rates of stress, depression and sleep deprivation, helping to prevent families from reaching breaking point. They allow parents time with their other children who can often miss out due to all the things their parents have to juggle such as medical appointments, assessments and work. Families that receive a regular break from 24/7 caring are also emotionally healthier.

Helen Piper from Frome has a nine year old daughter and a five year old son, Alex, who has complex learning and physical disabilities. Helen said, “It’s hard to quantify just how important short breaks are to us.  They are, to use an overused phrase, a lifeline.

“Our son Alex is a beautiful, loving, funny little boy but he and his needs are constantly on my mind. He’s entirely dependent upon us for all his needs throughout the day and it can be relentless. We were without respite provision for over a year and when I heard we had lost it – due to the changing needs of our son – I cried.

“Respite is our safety valve.  It means we can take our daughter out to different places – where there are steps or steep hills, or there’s more of a need for quiet. We can listen to her without fear of interruption.   It also means my husband and I could go for dinner or maybe even have a night away.  And when Alex returns, I’m re-energised, I have been able to miss him – as any parent should.

“Short breaks give Alex time away from us too, to spend time with people who’ll be dedicating time to him and showing him new experiences or different ways to do things.  This is something we all need.

“My son is not a burden but everyone needs a break. Our family and friends are unable to help – even though they would – because of his many complex needs. Short breaks hold our family together. They aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity.”

The new research also shows that despite pressures to cut some local authorities have protected short breaks services.

Amanda Batten EDCM Board Member and CEO at Contact a Family said, “The value of investing in short breaks is beyond doubt. They save the State tens of millions of pounds by supporting parent carers to look after their disabled children, and they give disabled children and young people opportunities that their peers take for granted.

“Short breaks must remain a priority for local authorities, but they need the necessary funding to protect this essential service. The reasons to invest in short breaks remain as strong today as ever, and we urge the Government to ensure the sustainability of short breaks for the future.”

Contact a Family is a national charity that supports families with disabled children whatever their disability or medical condition. The charity has developed a wide range of helpful information about short breaks from how to find out what you are entitled to help with challenging cuts to short break services.

For more information please visit www.cafamily or call Contact a Family’s free helpline on 0808 808 3555.