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Crisis meeting to discuss short break services for children at Armagh Respite Unit

A meeting will be held later today to discuss future of short break services

A cross-party meeting will be held later today to discuss the future of short break provision for children at an Armagh Respite Unit.

Concerns have been aired after the Southern Trust told parents and carers of children with complex needs at Oaklands that short break provisions will be cancelled for the foreseeable future.

MLAs Justin McNulty, Cathal Boylan and William Irwin will attend the crisis meeting later today.

Mr McNulty said he been contacted by a number of parents expressing their anger and concerns that the service is to close in Armagh, even though it is supposedly to be on a temporary basis only.

“I offered to arrange a meeting with the Southern Trust and that meeting will take place today with parents in attendance.

“The needs of those in our community with a disability and their carers are issues we should all be concerned about.

‘There is a very strong demand for the service in Armagh and it must be retained. Short break or respite services for the families involved is a real lifeline, and to ask families to do without that service, even on a temporary basis is completely unacceptable.”

He added: “‘In recent weeks I have been involved in a very similar process with parents of young people using Carrickore in Newry.

“Carrickore is a very similar however many of the issues and pressures remain the same. Communication and engagement with the families who rely on the service is of utmost importance and that’s a message I’ll be bringing to the Trust officials today.

“I hope that, just as with Carrickore we can get a short, medium and long term solution to the issues involved and that the service can be fully restored as soon as possible.”

Cathal Boylan MLA says he was shocked when he heard the news.

“Parents understand how much the service is valued and the impact it makes on the lives of families who use it,” said Mr Boylan.

“Over the years I have heard of the genuine affection for the staff and how much they do for the children. To receive a letter out of the blue blind sighted parents. This service has been a lifeline.

“Reassurances have been given straight from the Director of Child and Family Services, Paul Morgan, that the Southern Trust are committed to restoring their short breaks service to its usual levels as soon as possible.

“It is a great relief that families have been given assurances that the Trust are keen to work positively with them and are keen to meet with parents and political representatives to discuss the recent difficulties.

“As always, the devil is in the detail, the Trust have stated that recent difficulties have been temporary, however their aim is to provide a full resumption of the service in the very near future.”

William Irwin MLA added: “I know that within the Newry and Armagh constituency, both Oaklands in Armagh and Carrickore in Newry are experiencing similar difficulties with pressures on services and this is having an impact on availability of resources for the short break respite service.

“I have had initial correspondence from the Trust stating that they are very aware of the pressures and are working towards a solution.

“The meeting with the Health Trust on Thursday to further discuss these very important concerns will be a useful engagement.

“The staff do such great work and many people rely on this short break care service. It is important that the issues are overcome as soon as possible in order to restore this vital service.”

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