Wembley respite home for children with learning difficulties could close

Worried parents say closing the centre will stifle opportunities for their children to socialise with other kids

A children’s respite care home could close, sparking concern among worried parents that they could struggle without the network of support they have come to rely on.

Brent Council is discussing proposals to shut the Crawford Avenue centre, in Wembley, which offers care to 53 children with severe learning and behavioural difficulties, allowing families a well deserved break from caring for their disabled children.

If the plans are approved, these children will have to travel to another centre in Clement Close, Brondesbury which specialises in looking after children with profound physical disabilities, for respite care. Or families can choose to claim direct payments to pay for their own help.

But Clement Close is a smaller centre with fewer bedrooms, and parents say the cuts will inevitably diminish opportunities for children with learning disabilities to access respite care, and socialise with other children.

Samantha Hurley, whose son Damon attended the centre for more than ten years, said: “This is going to put a lot of strain on parents who have already had the number of respite hours they are entitled to cut.

“This closure will make special needs kids more isolated. They won’t get the chance to interact with other kids. The council wants to get rid of these buildings, but kids need these to meet one another, interact and play.”

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Kate Garnett, another parent at the centre, said: “This respite care centre is invaluable to parents and their disabled children, by giving the parents a much needed short break and allowing the children to socialise with other children away from home.

“It seems that the most vulnerable people in society are being targeted for their council cuts.”

The proposed closure comes days after the council announced plans to shut Kingsbury Manor, the borough’s only day care centre specialising in providing support to the Asian community.

It is part of a wider move away from building based care and towards giving direct payments so individuals and their families can pay for their own help.

Crawford Avenue costs �624,500 a year to run, and both centres were due to close and have their services transferred to a new, purpose built short break unit at the Village School in Kingsbury in 2012, but this has been brought forward because of deep cuts to the authority’s budget.

A Brent Council spokesman was unable to say how much money the closure would save or if any redundancies would be made, and stressed that the proposals are in their early stages, and subject to consultation with parents and carers.

He added: “The review aims to ensure increased choice and control for parents while services remain cost effective and provide value for money.

“Everyone who is currently eligible for care packages will continue to receive them, although it may be delivered differently in some cases.”