The meeting was addressed by the Council official responsible for such provision, Eleanor Brazil (Director CYPF), who explained that “savings” (cuts) were behind the threat to this Council service. She said its occupancy rate was only 57% and that was similar to another home in the city. Foster care might be an alternative.
When it came to question time for parents, a host of heartfelt, angry and tearful comments were made. It was stressed time and time again that without the respite care being delivered by Charles House, parents would not be able to cope. It would lead to family breakdowns, which would then cost the state even more.
Most parents said that they had found it very difficult to get their children into the house for respite care; it was time consuming and bureaucratic. If it was made easier and more transparent, the take up rate would very quickly climb to 100%.
As regards to fostering care, one parent said that she had been turned down by eighteen potential foster parents because they didn’t have the skills needed to look after her child. At Charles House they do have those skills! Incidentally Birmngham City Council wants to cut at least 23 Fostering Social Workers currently based at Lifford House!
No, the whole proposal to close or merge Charles House is misconceived nonsense. It should be kept open in its own right with a full level of provision. In reply to the economic argument, the Council is spending £200 million this year in repayments to the banks, via the government. As it was the banks that caused the economic problems behind all of this in the first place, let them wait for their money! The Council has also spent £186 million on Capita. What is the Council getting for this, and is it more important than respite care for disabled children and parents?
There was huge support expressed for a campaign to save Charles House by the parents. Several Labour (current and potential) Councillors were there to offer support. And so were Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts, who pointed out the lessons of the Merrishaw closure and offered a few ideas on how to win this time.
The “consultation”period ends on 6th January 2012. There is now a large breathing space to build up such a campaign, that this vital resource will be left alone.
by Bob Whitehead and Chris Hughes
There will be a “Save Charles House” group meeting. Next Thursday at 10.30am, 10th November, At Charles House.
There are two petitions we would ask everyone to sign: