Over the coming days, we’ll be featuring the stories of some families who have, or have had in the past, a child who has benefited from respite care at Charles House in West Heath. We hope this will help the families demonstrate what a vital service Charles House provides as they campaign against the threat of possible closure.

Owen's sister Libby and brother Tyler join in at the Hardest Hit Rally in Birmingham
Owen's sister Libby (10) and brother Tyler (11) join in at the Hardest Hit Rally in Birmingham

This, our second posting, comes from Karl and Bev Phillips, who rely on Charles House for support and care of their severely disabled son.

Our son Owen (12) is diagnosed with Severe Autism, ADHD, Severe Learning Disability and behavioural problems. He visits Charles House, where he is understood and cared for in a fun and loving atmosphere that he enjoys, with dedicated staff we can trust implicitly to look after him and give us valuable respite where other services have failed.

We love him dearly but in our family, life revolves mainly around him and so when he is at Charles House we are able to devote quality time to our younger children who, unfortunately, don’t get as much attention as they deserve. We also get a much needed respite, which we need as a family, from the constant strain of looking after his personal, medical and emotional needs.

As with other families with children like Owen, when you are constantly being pushed to breaking point and suffering depression as a result of the day to day strain, just a few days respite a month makes all the difference between managing or being a family in crisis.

For most children with complex needs, asking extended family to look after them just isn’t an option as they cannot cope with the  level of need of our children. This is why the idea of placing our children in foster care, without the necessary skills, experience & safe environment, is wrong. This is where the staff at Charles House are invaluable, as they understand our children’s complex needs and nothing fazes them.

To a lot of us, Charles House is considered as the caring extended family we trust and rely on, as they understand our children as well as we do.

It has taken us years of fighting with Social Care to get Owen a place at Charles House after being offered other inferior services they recommended – some with staff who were caring but had no idea how to deal with his needs and others who I wouldn’t trust to look after a child with special needs – when asked how they would deal with some of his needs and behaviour they were shocked, horrified and had no answers to give. Other services wouldn’t even consider him when they learned his needs.

As with all the inferior services offered in the past, when we interviewed carers their experience consisted of: read a book, did a day course or had experience with a completely different disability with no relation to my child’s needs. These were all considered to be skilled and experienced to deal with Owen’s complex disabilities and needs by their managers & social care.

Charles House is a valuable resource that has consistently received Outstanding status from OFSTED in all areas. It should be rewarded and celebrated by Birmingham City Council and not treated like this and closed down. If closure was to happen, there is no other service to replace it in Birmingham for the children who use Charles House. We know this as we researched this thoroughly when fighting for his place there – there aren’t enough dedicated services in Birmingham for Disabled Children and Young Adults as reflected in surveys & consultations carried out in recent years, of which we were a part.

Yours Sincerely
Karl & Bev Phillips



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