Croydon respite plans are closed until further notice

By - Thursday 30th August, 2018

Carer services in Croydon are being hit hard by closures

Photo public domain.

The word ‘closed’ is an interesting adjective. ‘Not open, having ceased trading.’ It has a certain finality about it, in that it cannot be questioned – only accepted. The ‘closed’ sign on a shop window or door gives an overall feeling of disappointment and annoyance. This subsides, though, as the following day it will be open again. Which is more than I can say about the organisations City Breaks and Help for Carers Croydon.

City Breaks, which is managed by the Brandon Trust, worked with adults with learning disabilities and those on the autistic spectrum in Southwark and neighbouring boroughs, including Croydon. It provided residential care for clients so that carers and parents were able to have some respite. It was recommended to me for my brother last autumn. As those who have used City Breaks’ services will already know, it was closed on 20th June, with the exception of pre-booked breaks, until the end of that month.

I received an apologetic and concerned telephone call from Croydon Council, followed by an official letter confirming the closure. That feeling of disappointment and annoyance arose, alongside sympathy for those losing jobs yet again. The reason appeared to be that Southwark Council was no longer funding City Breaks, and it is the council’s building that provided the respite services. As always, it is the funding that was lost – but what exactly does that really mean?

There is no other service that provides a similar sort of respite

This closure took me and, I am certain, other carers by surprise, just by the sheer suddenness of it all. If you’re prepared, you can plan, but unfortunately this was not the case. Add to that the fact that there is no other building that provides similar respite. Heather Way was the last of its kind, providing respite support, which was owned and managed by Croydon Council.

Croydon Help for Carers, according to its website, “will cease on Saturday 30th June 2018″. It does mention that it will endeavour to make alternative care arrangements for current clients. I have had a positive experience with this group when it was a care agency known as Crossroads, and was sad to see another organisation go.

Lack of funding is a term that I have come to interpret as not being financially viable. The bottom line is, no matter how charitable these groups are, and no matter the demand, they have to make a profit and justify spending. This is business – but this is not such an easy balance to achieve, and so far, from what I have seen, the most vulnerable are affected more and more. Do the ends justify the means? So often the reason/s for closure is/are not always clear.

“Carers need to be reassured that ‘review’ does not mean ‘closure’”

Croydon ran a review of respite and short-break services for adults with learning disabilities last year. Included in this was feedback about Heather Way with ‘stakeholders’ such as carers, parents, Heather Way staff and management, Croydon Mencap, Croydon Council learning disability team and management, the adult social care, direct payments team and transitions team were all involved in this.

Areas that were examined were how clients’ needs were met; also the review looked into improvements and adaptations if needed. There were room for improvements, which included the issue of under-occupancy of beds. However, the overall consensus was that Heather Way was well liked and needed by clients. What I found disconcerting was the irony of the feedback from Croydon Mencap: “Carers need to be reassured that ‘review’ does not necessarily equal ‘closure’ and that alternatives are available”. Alternatives such as City Breaks…

There appears to have been a drop in support for carers from social services

The greatest impact for a carer in their role is a break from caring. It also appears that, despite the increase in care received or bought, many carers indicated that there was a drop from the previous year in support services from social services. One in seven carers were affected according to the Carers UK State of Caring Survey 2018. This is reflected in the current state of care services in Croydon.

The reliability of direct payments, if you are lucky enough to be in receipt of this, is to be creative when using care services. However, as mentioned in the respite and short breaks review: “there is little or no choice offered to service users and their families on where and when to take their respite and short breaks”. If this continues, what are the consequences for carers in Croydon – and, furthermore, in light of continuing closure – where are the contingencies?

Loren Dixon

Loren Dixon

Loren is a full time carer for an adult sibling who is autistic and is a member of a Autism Family/Parent Support Group in Croydon. She also volunteers for the South London Botanical Institute when she has time and has worked in the cultural & heritage sector. After a long spell of not painting and drawing she has returned to it by finding enjoyment in a new medium to her, botanical illustration.

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