Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire respite care homes to close despite protests

Sunbeams in Aldershot Image copyright Google
Image caption Sunbeams in Aldershot will close under the proposals

Two residential care homes in Hampshire for children with disabilities are to shut following a council review.

Merrydale in Winchester and Sunbeams in Aldershot offer breaks for 35 families caring for profoundly disabled children.

Campaigners had described the services as a "lifeline" for families.

The county council insisted alternatives were more cost effective and it would provide a "wider choice of options" for support.

Jamie Butt, whose 14-year-old severely autistic son John Tyler has chromosomal deletion syndrome and spends 40 nights a year Merrydale, said the closure was "devastating".

"It gives us an opportunity to be a normal family and do what a normal family does," he said.

"It gives JT an opportunity to be independent of us and develop confidence which is vital going forward.

"We feel like we're heading towards a cliff. Not enough is being done to support us."

Image caption The decision to close the centres is confirmed at a public meeting in Winchester

Keith Mans, Hampshire County Council's executive lead member for children's services said the decision followed "reduced funding from central government, and growing demand for services".

"There are substantial costs associated with keeping these buildings and facilities up to standard and fit for purpose, and it is my view that this money can be put to better use.

"While I acknowledge that some of those families will be disappointed with this decision, I am confident that they will be able to agree, with their social worker, a new and alternative package of respite care that will continue to meet their particular needs," he added.

The council said it was offering overnight breaks, care support in families' own homes and access to activity centres.

Under the plans, both sites would be sold off after they close at the end of May.

Image caption Protests have been held against the proposed closures

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