Charles House, the respite home for disabled children in West Heath faced with possible closure as part of Birmingham City Council’s spending review, has today been offered a reprieve. The home is a lifeline for families of children with problems such as severe learning disabilities and autism.
In a blog post yesterday, BCC’s Chief Executive Stephen Hughes thanked people for their contributions to the consultation process, which included an online survey and public consultation meetings, and stated that no final decisions would be made until February 28th, the date the budget will be set.
However, Cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families Councillor Les Lawrence (Northfield) met with parents just before Christmas and promised to take a written question regarding the future of the facility before today’s full council meeting. The meeting, which started at 2pm today, is the first since the consultation period officially ended on Sunday 8th January.
The written question, from Weoley councillor Eddie Freeman, asks Cllr Lawrence: “Could you […] indicate what the plans are for Charles House, its staff, the young people who are currently supported and their parents?”
In his written reply, Cllr Lawrence states that: “… Charles House, which has on three separate occasions been judged by OfSTED as outstanding, will continue to provide high quality respite care for young people together with supporting their families underpinned by staff who are highly respected.”
Throughout the budget consultation, Charles House parents and supporters have led a very active campaign including meeting with councillors and council officials, attending public consultation meetings and council meetings, and campaigning on Kings Norton Green.
In December, Councillor Andy Cartwright submitted a petition of 2684 signatures to full council meeting to cheers from opposition councillors and the public gallery.
The Charles House parents have been supported by many local councillors including Cllr Cartwright and Brandwood Councillors Leddy & Henley. Other supporters include Labour’s council candidate for Northfield Brett O’Reilly and Stirchley and Cotteridge Against the Cuts.
Parent Karl Phillips has a 12 year old son with severe autism, ADHD, severe learning disability and behavioural problems supported by Charles House. Karl has been one of the parents most heavily involved in the campaigning. He reacted to today’s news: “After all the worry over the last 3 months I’m overjoyed and relieved that Cllr Lawrence has decided to keep Charles House open and recognises the great service they provide. I only hope the council will continue to support his decision and they all appreciate the work Charles House and other care homes such as Camborne house do for the most challenging disabled children and families of Birmingham.
“Parents have campaigned hard to get this decision but at the end of the day we were just raising awareness of the highly skilled, committed and caring staff at Charles House we trust implicitly with our children and their dedication won our argument.
“Myself and other parents will be taking part in the placement strategy consultation which will hopefully make it easier for families to access these essential services much easier in the future.” he added.
Cllr Cartwright, who is also a member of the council’s scrutiny committee for vulnerable children, said: “Charles House isn’t just bricks and mortar, doesn’t just support the young people that use it, its a major life line and support network for the parents and extended family. It can offer a lot more families the support if the City looked at it correctly. The outstanding OfSted is a credit to the staff who have achieved this.
“I am glad that a reverse decision has been made and hope it has been secured in the long term budget. This worry should never have been put on the families, young people or the community. I am sure this will bring some relief to the families. As one parent said to me – 4 weeks a year of respite is better than the city having to fund 52 weeks of care.
Cllr Cartwright added: “Some cuts need to happen but not on the vulnerable community”
On behalf of the parents and campaign, thanks to everyone who signed the petition, on paper or online on B31 Voices, and all who have offered their support over the last few months.
Full written question and answer:
CITY COUNCIL – 10 JANUARY 2012
WRITTEN QUESTION TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR CHILDREN, YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES FROM COUNCILLOR EDDIE FREEMAN
Question (Cllr Eddie Freeman):
The public consultation with regard to the proposals for the Council’s budget plan’s for 2012/13 came to an end on the 08 January.
I understand, based on this date, that before Christmas you gave a commitment to the parents of the young people currently attending Charles House that you would provide a firm answer to the result of the representations received, concerns raised and the highly thought of quality of service provision as to the future of this service.
Could you therefore indicate what the plans are for Charles House, its staff, the young people who are currently supported and their parents?
Answer (Cllr Les Lawrence):
A significant number of comments, representations and consultation responses were received with regard to the provision of respite services to those young people, such as attending Charles House, indicating the value and importance of the service to their well-being, personal development and families.
The commitment shown by parents, staff and young people as expressed at the Northfield Ward Committee Meeting and at the meeting, as you detail in your question, was an important factor in the consideration of the future for Charles House.
I can therefore confirm that Charles House will continue to be a vital component in the overall provision of respite services. Already changes to the process by which places are provided have occurred, staffing profiles assessed, to enable improvements in the access to and provision of placements.
Therefore Charles House, which has on three separate occasions been judged by OfSTED as outstanding, will continue to provide high quality respite care for young people together with supporting their families underpinned by staff who are highly respected.