Special needs children are not ‘abandoned’

JPCT 250913 S13390074x QE II school, Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 250913 S13390074x QE II school, Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb

Children with complex special needs and their families should not be ‘abandoned’ despite the temporary closure of a Horsham respite care centre.

Holly Lodge in Comptons Lane was temporarily closed in September 2012 when the number of children using the centre decreased to seven, and the three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) covering West Sussex are consulting on its future.

According to Heather Mooney, lead nurse for children’s continuing healthcare, the dip is down to a combination of a national fall in eligibility for some children, families choosing breaks at home, and a shortage of available nurses.

Speaking at West Sussex County Council’s North Horsham County Local Committee Amanda Jupp (Con, Billingshurst) spoke passionately about the need to support families and children involved.

“There may be fewer of these families but they still need our help,” she said.

“I do not think we should abandon these people”

Ms Mooney replied: “There is no question of abandoning these families.”

She said there were other options for overnight breaks at The Finches in Burgess Hill, and while it was unlikely that Sussex Community NHS Trust would resume the service the CCGs were trying to sound out a new provider.

She explained: “Sussex Community Trust said that Holly Lodge could not run safely because they did not have the number of staff to run it safely.”

Respite care involves short breaks offering children activities with other children, and parents a break from caring, either during the day or overnight.

The building is on the same site as the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School which caters for 2-19-year-olds with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.

David Sheldon (LDem, Horsham Tanbridge and Broadbridge Heath) added: “I was on the site the other day and it would be crazy to lose that facility on that site.”

Several members spoke of the hope that a provider could be found to take over the site, and wondered if they could work with the QE II school in some way over its future.

Ms Mooney added: “It would be a great shame if the buildings were not used for the benefit of the children they were built for.”

Peter Catchpole (Con, Holbrook) added: “I was at the opening of this so it’s a great sadness to see the reverse happening.”