Parents of children who attend Charles House, which is threatened with closure, made their views known to Birmingham City Council’s Chief Executive Stephen Hughes in a live webchat this afternoon.

The event was part of a comprehensive consultation process being undertaken by the council on their proposed budget cuts for 2012/13.

B31blog opened the questions re Charles House when we asked Mr Hughes:

Parents of disabled children who receive support and respite care at Charles House in West Heath (and other such facilities in the city) are worried that the proposed changes in the delivery of this care could lead to closure of the home. Councillor Les Lawrence has said “there are no closure proposals”… Can you confirm that this home is NOT under threat of closure?

Stephen Hughes replied:

This is a consultation and no decisions have been made. The challenge in respect of Charles House is that the usage has fallen and so the costs of providing respite care in this way are much more expensive than alternatives. The Strategic Director is arranging to meet with clients in the near future to discuss these issues and find solutions that all can accept.

Parent Karl Phillips then joined the conversation and asked:

Why are there plans to close Charles house respite care home for disabled children with complex needs as part of your cuts and to use foster carers. When all families both past and presently using it regard it as an essential service with skilled & experienced staff that has no equivelent in foster care and keeps famlilies together in the long run.

to which Mr Hughes said:

Please see the answer to B31Blog above. Just to emphasise no decisons have been taken and consultation with users is being separately arranged

Karl Phillips added:

If usage has fallen at Charles House it is because social care managers frequently refuse a referal to to C.H and want users to try everything else first. It Took us 5 years of fighting and indentifying the inferiorities of the alternatives and 2 complaints procedures before getting a place for my son at charles house and it is the best thing ever for him

Another parent, Sarah Harris, added her concerns to the discussion:

we are very worried about the cuts as i read that 5 childrens homes will be closed. i am concerned as charles house is a centre of excellence and is perfect place for my son to receive respite . please don’t close charles house it will cause great heartache to the families who rely on its brilliant service. it took us ages as well to get our son into charles house it is a god send and has improved our families life so much

Mr Hughes said:

I’ve commented specifically about Charles House earlier – and again this is consultation. All these views will be passed onto to those looking at the issue. In respect of Childrens homes more generally, what we know is that institutional care for children leads to the worse outcomes for the children – in terms of educational outcomes and life chances. Children do better in stable family situations. Therefore we want to find better and more effective ways of keeping children out of institutions to give them a better chance in life. No decisions have been made and the consultation is about exploring these options.

Karl Phillips added:

You talk of improving positive outcomes for children but you and your colleges obviously have no experience with disabled children with complex needs. If you did you’d know it is not only the trained, experienced staff that is needed but also the safe enviroment for them. Where they cannot injure themselves and others and thats not even going into the medical needs of our children.

And Sarah Harris said:

thank you for your comment i am sorry but i do not share this opinion. this is not case for children who have respite at charles house. we have a stable family sitiuaton. we look after our children who have severe disablities. at charles house we have outstanding setting to allow my child a break with children like himself. they have a sensory and take the children on exciting outings with staff who are highly trained and care for our children. my son does not sleep at night so the staff at charles house are there for him. i cant see how respite in a foster home in the community would work were we have had to totally make our house safe for my son, finger guards on all doors stair gates etc charles house has improved our lives and my sons not the opposite. my son will need 24/7 care for the rest of his life i will be this person to do this for him as long as i am able. charles house gives him a short break , independence , myself a short break he is not in a institution it is respite.

Karl challenged Mr Hughes further:

By closing places like Chares House you are in danger of making outcomes worse for both the children using them and their families. Do you really want the breakdown of our families and the risk of children then needind full time care on your concience

Mr Hughes replied:

There is a distinction between respite care for children located in families, and children looked after by the local authority, where the evidence is they do better in family situations.

Karl asked:

Then why in the consultation meeting on Saturday you made no distinction between respite and full time care and infered both were the same in terms of cuts

Mr Hughes said:

I thought I did make that point, I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. Since Saturday I’ve found a bit more about Charles House as a result of your questions.

Here’s hoping that all the comments made are recorded and passed on for consideration.

You can read the full Q&A session here

If you want to be involved in the consultation there are numerous ways you can voice your views: online, by text, at pubic forums and more. Read more about the process and how you can take part here.  



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Read about the council’s 2012 budget consultation and how to have your say 

If you’re a parent of a child who use, or has used in the past, the facilities at Charles House, please get in touch and tell us your story. 




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