Carers and parents have said they are “heartbroken” as Newport City Council proposes to cut services at a care home for children with learning difficulties.
In its draft budget for 2023/24 the council is proposing to cut services at Oaklands – which offers short breaks and respite – in half.
The residential care home on St John’s Crescent, Rogerstone, currently supports 21 children – but this could be reduced to 11 if the £485,000 cut goes ahead.
Oaklands offers short breaks and care for children and young people aged four to 17-years-old with learning disabilities and additional needs.
Parent and carer Carli Jordan said: “Before we had the help from Oaklands, we were a family in crisis.”
Carli, 40 and her husband Chris, 42, have three autistic sons. Their 11-year-old son Brodey, who has autism and severe developmental delay, has been attending the care home for the past two years.
Carli said: “None of it makes sense to us. We understand that budget cuts have to be made but why is it the most vulnerable that are effected.”
In 2018, the respite service at Oaklands was in danger of being cut from seven days to six – which would have saved the council £124,000.
Chris said: “It’s just so difficult, we’re trying to keep Brodey in our care so to make these changes and if the help is taken away, what are our options?
“We may have to separate the family.”
Prior to attending Oaklands, Carli said separating from her husband of 22 years seemed like the only option to get respite, adding: “Between the two of us we physically couldn’t do it.”
Their son Brodey now attends the centre once a week for an overnight stay, with Carli describing Oaklands as the family’s “lifeline”.
She added: “The staff are absolutely wonderful with him and the other children – the work they do is incredible.”
Chris said he wanted confirmation from the council that this wasn’t the first step to closing the care home completely.
The service is currently provided seven days a week but the proposed change would see Oaklands open just four days a week, from Monday 3pm until
Each child will receive four sessions per month, a reduction from an average of six sessions.
A petition to “save” Oaklands has over 600 signatures, it states that disabled children will lose their “adopted home” if the cuts are made.
One foster carer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “I’m getting older and it’s draining when you don’t know when your next break is going to be.
“I absolutely adore my child and I don’t want to give them up, which is why the respite at Oaklands is amazing.”
The foster carer added: “When they’re at the care home I can rest and make food, do the cleaning – I don’t think people realise it’s the little things that carers need. We’re all struggling, it’s the hardest job but also the most rewarding.”
According to the council’s report, which was approved by cabinet on December 15, the change to Oaklands could result in the council being required to purchase short breaks from alternative providers in crisis situations.
Another carer whose child has been using Oakland’s for a number of years said: “Overnight respite is the only thing that gives you a proper rest. We’re supported every week, and there is no other service that offers what we’ve got at Oaklands.
“I believe the reason they are targeting somewhere like Oaklands is because it only effects 21 families and they might think ‘oh they will go away’, but it’s not fair.”
Carers argue the council’s consultation on the budget is not accessible to those it effects the most. Many children and young people who attend Oaklands use nonverbal communication.
The anonymous carer said: “My biggest concern is the consultation. Many people affected have learning difficulties and won’t be able to contribute.”
The council has said it has requested the wishes of the children be expressed through staff and carers or parents.
Those needing the consultation in a diffrent format can contact the council for support.
Conservative councillor for Rogerstone North, Chris Reeks, said he was “deeply concerned and dismayed” to hear about the proposed budget cuts.
He said: “I have been contacted by a number of extremely anxious parents and will be meeting with the parents and some of the home’s residents to understand more their concerns.
“I have heard many good reports on the services that the home provide which not only benefit greatly the children, but also give their parents and carers a short period of respite.”
Statement from Newport City Council:
A council spokesperson said: “The budget proposal for Oaklands, which offers short breaks and care for children aged four to 17 years, is not to close the service but to reduce it from seven to four days a week.
“If it goes ahead, the service will support for 11 to 12 children each week. A meeting has taken place with parents and a further meeting is due to take place next week. We have requested that the wishes and feelings of the children are represented by staff at the home and their parents/carers.
“Newport City Council is facing a major financial challenge with a budget gap next year of £27.6 million. There is increased demand for services and increased pressure because of rising costs. Two-thirds of the budget is spent on the most essential services – social care and education.
“All budget proposals are currently subject to public consultation and we are urging residents to give their feedback here. The survey also invites people to give alternative proposals.”
Main Image courtesy of Newport City Council