Distraught parents hit out at plans to close Wembley children’s respitecentre

Crawford Avenue set to close despite fears from parents that their chidlren’s care will be compromised

Distraught parents have criticised plans to close a children’s respite centre – which could see the number of overnight stays at a specialist centre slashed by 30 per cent.

The Crawford Avenue short break unit in Crawford Avenue, Wembley, which specialises in caring for autistic children, is due to close on October 1.

Brent Council rubber-stamped the plans to wind down the building-based care in Brent and offer direct payments instead.

Under the plans, approved by the executive last week, the 67 children who currently use Crawford Avenue will be moved to another residential centre in Clement Close, Brondesbury.

However, parents warn that the centre is not adapted to the needs of autistic children – it currently caters for children with significant physical disabilities.

Fitzroy Lee, whose daughter Kamaria, 17, has been going to the centre for a decade, said: “Crawford Avenue has been excellent for her. She doesn’t get any real stimulus when she is at home, but there she gets the opportunity to play and she is used to the staff.

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“The council is talking about introducing direct payments, but they miss the point that it benefits families to have the respite. It is critical.”

The garden at Crawford Avenue was last year refitted with specialist sensory equipment, yet the council claims the building is not fit for purpose.

The move will mean Brent Council’s in-house provision of residential short break respite care places will be cut by up to 30 per cent.

The council has pledged to find alternative places.

Zahra Bhatti, 15, has used Crawford Avenue’s respite and day care services since she was four. Her mother, Romana Bhatti, said: “Crawford Avenue is a lifeline.”

The council insists the closure is not motivated by cutting costs, but Crawford Avenue is rented by the authority from Barnardos for �32,250 a year.

A spokeswoman said: “There was a full consultation with parents and their views were taken into consideration.”