The Covid-19 crisis has been an extremely challenging time for families and carers of children and young people with complex disabilities, who, even before Covid-19, faced difficulties in accessing the respite care they so badly need.
At Chailey Heritage Foundation our main priority has been to ensure the safety of the extremely vulnerable young people who live with us on site on a full-time basis, the staff who work with them, and keeping the school open for as many day pupils as need it.
In our residential services we had a number of double rooms where young people would share a bedroom. When the Covid-19 outbreak started we had to move all the young people into single rooms to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus between young people and to be able to isolate them if they became unwell. Although this has meant we have less capacity across the site, it was an important decision to ensure the young people’s safety.
Providing respite is the most challenging part of our service. It presents the highest risk of exposure and transmission, but with the rate of transmission dropping we plan to resume our respite service and offer short breaks, albeit with less capacity.
Jackie Hall, Director of Social Care said:
“We know how much families need respite and how challenging this period of lockdown due to Covid-19 has been, but we had to make some difficult decisions in order for us to restart our short breaks service safely both for young people who live on site and the families who have respite with us.”
Through restructuring we can offer most of our families continuing support. Unfortunately, for a very small number of families, we have not been able to offer the same levels of respite as pre Covid-19 and we are looking at other options along with their funding authorities.
Helen Hewitt, Chief Executive said:
“We are committed to supporting families and carers by providing respite on site and through our other services . We already had plans to increase capacity so every young person would have a room of their own. Unfortunately the COVID crisis has forced us make the change to single rooms now. As result, we have not been able to offer the same level of respite to families as before. We know how devastating this will be families and recognise how important it will be to replace the capacity we have lost due to COVID-19. We already have designs for the new build but will need the support of the community and our very generous donors to help us achieve this.”
We understand that all this will add to the anxieties families are already facing. We are very sorry that we have had to make changes that will reduce the valuable lifeline that respite represents. However, we continue to work alongside more than 70 organisations as part of the Disabled Children’s Partnership in campaigning for families and carers to receive the level support they so urgently require.