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12:35pm 29th August 2014

The axe falls on two children's homes in Cornwall.

St Christopher's in Redruth and Lowenna Redwing in Truro offer respite for kids with disabilities and their families.

They will run for the last time on Thursday night after the Council decided to shut them to save cash.

It means autistic youngsters like 15 year old Gabriel Judge from Illogan are having to move.

Dad Simon tells Pirate FM the change could be too much: "Concerns I have are mainly (about) him fitting in. Gabriel is going to be the first child there with a physical disability as well as his autism and his limited sight. It's how the other children are going to adapt because they're going to have to adapt as well.

"He can't sort of go down to the park and use media and social media to chat to his friends or whatever. So he needs that time but the family needs that time as well to recharge their batteries and be able to do things together that you can't do."

Andrew Wallis is in charge of children, schools and families at Cornwall Council.

He said: "We are committed to supporting children and young people with disabilities and their parents and carers.  We recognise the importance of short breaks for children and young people and for their parents and carers and, unlike many other local authorities facing severe reductions in budgets, have continued to fund a wide range of short breaks.
"Each year has seen the delivery of short breaks for disabled children growing, year on year, with many more families now being able to access a range of short breaks including day opportunities, activity days, family fun days, group/peer opportunities, youth opportunities, family based short break support and specific individual bespoke support packages, as well as the overnight residential short stay breaks.
"This year 585 disabled children and young people received short break services from the Council, with 146 young people currently using the residential short break units. In total we spend around £10 million per annum supporting children with special educational needs and disabled children and their families, one of the highest levels of spending in the country.  However reductions in government funding means that the budget available to Children's Services has been reduced by over £17m over the past four years. With further reductions in government grants requiring the Council to make a further £196m savings over the next four years, we have been forced to look at different ways of meeting an increased demand for short breaks.
"Following the decision to re organise the residential short breaks service earlier this year we have spent £240,000 carrying out works to upgrade and  improve facilities at Poppins and Doubletrees. New equipment, toys and communication aides have also been purchased for the other settings to support the needs of the children who attend and to enable their stays to be fun and to better support their particular individual needs.
"As well as the residential centres, we also fund a wide range of services through other providers, including Scope who support Active 8, a Cornish based charity which gives young people aged between 15 - 18 with a physical disability the opportunity to take part in a range of activities one weekend a month and ASPIRES, which is delivered by Dreadnought and supports young people age 8-18 who have a diagnosis of Autism and attend mainstream school. This service provides a weekly social skills group that support these young people to develop confidence and self-esteem with a view to them integrating into mainstream activities. Other services include the Get Out There (GOT) group which provides a range of activity days for young people with a visual impairment and other additional needs; youth groups where disabled young people develop independence skills and explore youth related issues and preparation for adulthood and a holiday activity scheme providing young people with disabilities the opportunity to take part in art, music, sports and team games activities.
"Over the past few months we have assessed the needs of all the children and young people who currently receive short break services from the Council and have offered alternative provision which meets their needs. This includes services provided in the community for young people who do not want residential support; specialist autism settings and residential care in either Poppins or Doubletrees.  
"We recognise that the changes to the short break service has had a significant impact on families and while the majority of families affected by the changes have reported that they are happy with the new services, a small number of families whose children have very complex needs still have concerns over the provision they have been offered.
"We will continue to work proactively with families to ensure that the support they need and the services they want are put into place as quickly as possible."

12:35pm 29th August 2014

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