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UPDATE: Cornish Children's Centres Earmarked For Closure

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:02am 16th January 2014 (Updated 3:01pm 16th January 2014)

Two Cornish centres that care for children with disabilities have been earmarked for closure.

St Christopher's in Redruth and Lowenna Redwing in Truro offer respite to almost 40 children and their families.

At a meeting on Thursday, Cornwall Council has recommended they shut as it tries to save cash.

Simon Judge from Illogan has a 15 year old son who is autistic and has learning disabilities.

He says the closure would be like a punishment for Gabriel, just like grounding any other teenager: "If you picked the child up from school and you said to them right, OK, give me your mobile phone, you're not allowed on social networking and you're not allowed down to the park to see your friends; that's a way of punishing a child without disabilities. Why is it that the council are trying to punish these children just for being born different.

"It's very hard on the children; they won't understand. It means either the parents have got to find something out of their own pocket or will be given direct payments, but that's not enough money to cover an overnight; these children aren't going to have anything near what they used to.

"Children with autism and disabilities, they take a long time to make friends. They take a long time to trust people and going to these centres, it's the only place they can socialise. St Christopher's is necessary, they need that social - they can't go out to the park and socialise."

37 children and 26 staff are expected to be impacted by the possible closure.

In papers sent to councillors due to make the decision officials wrote: "Currently, residential short breaks meet the needs of approximately 160 children, a relatively small proportion of disabled children in  Cornwall, whilst the demand for short breaks continues to rise.

"In terms of cost, this type of provision does not compare well with other short breaks. For example, the unit cost of residential short breaks is between £300-£400 whilst direct payments are £9.50 an hour, with a Family Based Short Break Carer costing approximately £40 for overnight care. This obviously is not sustainable going forward.

"The total budget for the local authority residential short break provision is £2.7m per annum. In order to meet financial targets, at least 20% savings will need to be identified from this budget alone in 2014/2015."

Recommended to Cabinet:

1. That the content and outcome of the Cornwall Council Review of Short Break Services for Disabled Children and Young People, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report, be endorsed.

2. That the outcome of the consultation meetings with staff and parents/carers, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report, be noted.

3. That, following the relevant children's needs being re-assessed and suitable alternative provision being identified and implemented including crisis placement, the proposal as outlined in Paragraph 1.5 of the report to close St. Christopher's (Redruth), including Lowenna Redwing (Truro), be approved.

4. The Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee requests that Cabinet consider recommending to Council a waiver to the Council policy on capital receipts that would allow the receipts from any sale to be reinvested in short breaks provision.

Recommendation to Corporate Director for Children Schools and Families:

5. The Children and Young People Portfolio Advisory Committee is concerned that there may not be sufficient capacity in family based short breaks. The Portfolio Advisory Committee recommends that the Children Schools and Families Directorate prioritise short breaks provision as part of its Medium Term Financial Review process.

A final decision is due later in January.

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