Essex County Council looks to improve services for children with disabilities

ESSEX County Council is beginning a six week consultation into how a better range of overnight short break care can be developed for children with disabilities.

The consultation is in response to the decline in use of overnight residential short breaks and the development of more local community based support options.

The local authority currently provides overnight short breaks in its own children’s homes, in independent sector homes and with foster carers, however, short breaks are also provided through activity breaks, care in the young person’s own home and school holiday clubs.

The consultation will seek views on the following options: the development of a range of alternative overnight short breaks which include (but are not limited to) ‘Shared care’ – short breaks within existing foster care placements; spot-purchasing placements in small local children’s homes; bespoke or specialist short breaks. These options may lead to the closure of Lavender House and/or the closure of The Maples, both local authority homes.

The consultation will not affect children’s eligibility or entitlement for overnight short breaks but, in the long term, may change how they receive overnight short breaks. The Children Act 1989 requires the LA to provide disabled children with the most appropriate support to meet their needs and improve their welfare, including supporting their family. The review of short break provision allows the authority to consider better use of family based placements and explore alternative options that benefit both child and family.

Essex County Councillor Dick Madden, Cabinet Member for families and children said: “This consultation is not about stopping provision, it is about responding to the changing wishes and needs of children and their parents and understanding how they want to receive overnight short break support.

“It is vital to stress that at this stage we are purely consulting on options, should any changes be made as a result of the consultation these will be delivered in a timely, sensitive way with the full involvement of parents / carers and young people. Service improvement will be delivered over time and no family will be left without a service.

“I know that respite care is a lifeline for many parents and carers and I hope that through this consultation we can develop a service offer that provides the best provision for the child and appropriate support for their family.”

The consultation begins on Thursday 21 November and runs until Monday 6 January. Focus groups with young people, meetings with parents and carers, and engagement with employees is scheduled. The public consultation is available at www.essexinsight.org.uk/consultations

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