Emergency meeting addresses ‘crisis’ at children’s respite unit

August 14, 2017

A respite unit in Newry for children with special needs must receive adequate resources to fulfill commitments previously agreed with parents and carers, SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has said.

Concerns were raised over the service provided at Carrickore Respite Unit when several parents were told their long-standing bookings for the weekend respite at the facility could not be honoured.  Some were not informed “until the last minute”, Mr McNulty claimed.

A hastily arranged meeting was convened on Friday to address the situation and was attended by members of the Carrickore Parents Group, Assistant Director of Carrickore, Ms Geraldine Maguire and Southern Trust representatives Josephine McKinley and Mark Irwin, Operational Manager of Short Breaks Services for Children with Disabilities.

Mr McNulty was also present at the meeting and said afterwards that the reduced level of short-break services provided by the Trust has led to “major distress” for affected families.

“Some parents have weekend breaks booked, whilst other parents had a family wedding to attend. The lack of access to Carrickore Respite Unit has jeopardised the time spent organising breaks, significant financial costs with hotels and flights, and most importantly, the needed downtime for the families,” he said.

“The summer is a very stressful time for the families who depend on the respite provided by Carrickore, as children are out of their normal routine, so the parents are their full time carers on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis.  The respite provided by Carrickore is really treasured by the families.”

Describing the meeting as “lengthy and constructive”, Mr McNulty says it was agreed that the Southern Trust must ensure “open and regular channels of communication so that parents are not left in the dark”.

The Parents Group requested that a ‘go-between’ or an ‘outlet’ be provided by the Trust with whom parents can consult, share information, ideas and emotional support on a regular basis.

Referring to the situation at Carrickore as “a crisis”, Ms. Maguire revealed that a supported living facility is being processed for two young people “with complex and difficult behavioural challenges”, currently under the care of Carrickore and, when completed, is expected to relieve some of the pressure on the unit.