Provision for The Maples in Harlow set to be increased

Education / Thu 6th Apr 2023 at 07:27am

ESSEX County Council’s decision to close a respite centre for children is to be re-examined in arguments that some children will not be able to cope with the extra travel time reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Lavender House, near Colchester, which was given a three-year reprieve in 2019, is set to close after the council met to formalise its plans for respite care in the county at a meeting on March 13.

That involves expanding the provision offered at The Maples, in Harlow. There the capacity will grow to provide a maximum of 2,912 nights per year which the council says is more than is currently delivered through the two premises combined.

But parents say that journey is too far for some of the children who struggle even to travel to local shops in a car.

Lib Dem councillor Mike Mackrory, who has asked for the decision to be looked at again at a call-in session on April 6, said: “Parents have said to me that their children get agitated if they have to stop at a set of traffic lights, let alone a trip across the county.”

He added that if parents are unable to travel to Harlow there may be severe consequences for them and their families.

He said: “If they don’t go then there will be other issues for children’s services. And there well may be an impact in later life in which case there will be calls on adult social care services in a sector which is already stretched.

“We feel we want them to look at it again, perhaps with some sort of alternative on the east side of the county.

“If the alternative was based somewhere a bit more centrally then it might be more logical, but not in Harlow.”

Gary Knowles, whose son Ashley, 16, attends Lavender House for 60 nights per year, said that Harlow – around a 90 minute car journey away – was too far to be of use for Ashley.

He said: “We are going to speak again to help fully get them to see sense.”

The council says its plans will result in improved availability of placements at weekends and placements for seven nights of the week.

Dependent on scheduling around children and young people’s needs, the capacity at The Maples will be a minimum of five children and a maximum of eight children visiting each night. This equates to 1,820 – 2,912 nights per year.

This is more than is currently delivered through the two internal premises (which are open five nights per week in term time) due to the two premises having limited staff capacity to have multiple children staying with high levels of need.

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