Worried Peterborough parents demonstrate against care changes

Protesters in Bridge Street including Neil Webber (left) and John Donnelly (right)
Protesters in Bridge Street including Neil Webber (left) and John Donnelly (right)
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Desperate parents yesterday pleaded for a U-turn on changes to a children’s home as they warned families could go into crisis.

A demonstration was held in Bridge Street by families who use The Manor in Derby Drive, Dogsthorpe, which will stop providing overnight respite care for young people following a vote by city councillors.

The council has insisted children will be able to use Cherry Lodge in Orton Goldhay for overnight stays or a range of different services, but a former carer at The Manor believes Cherry Lodge is not suitable for all children.

Kellie Leitch, of Tirrington, South Bretton, whose autistic son Casey (10) stays over at The Manor, said: “The Manor is a lifesaver for my family and I am able to spend quality time with my other children.

“I truly believe if you shut somewhere like The Manor which is such a valuable resource, it will put families into crisis. My eldest daughter is talking about coming home to make things easier.”

Lou Williams, council service director for children’s services, said no change will be implemented “until we feel each child will have a smooth transition.” He added: “The Manor currently cares for eight children overnight and operates at 22 per cent capacity for overnight stays. It is only open four nights a week.

“Each family has a case worker who will discuss the options open to them and will support them through the transition.”

The Peterborough Telegraph has spoken to several families whose children go to The Manor.

Neil Webber’s son Ozzy (13) stays there at least once a week. Mr Webber, who lives in Walton, said: “He does not like change to his routines or anything out of the ordinary - it will send him into meltdown.

“What they are proposing is to put him in a completely new environment where he knows nobody. That’s going to destroy him.”

John Donnelly’s son Leo (15), who has severe learning disabilities, has been going to The Manor for more than a decade. Mr Donnelly said the loss of overnight respite care “would be really difficult for us as a family and for Leo.

“He enjoys it there and it would be a big change for him.”

Mukhtiar Bhaker’s son Amandeep (14) has autism and ADHD. He said: “He’s very happy there and is always very excited to go to The Manor.

“If it closes so many people will be upset.”

A carer who worked at The Manor for 15 years believes the care changes are a “very bad mistake.”

Donald Smithers added: “The claim children from The Manor can in future be accommodated for respite at Cherry Lodge is very much open to argument. There are many experienced members of staff at both The Manor and Cherry Lodge who, I know, would not consider housing the vulnerable Cherry Lodge children alongside Manor children unless you were only considering those with very calm behaviour patterns. To do otherwise would be placing the Cherry Lodge children at an unacceptable risk of suffering harm.”

The council said families will now have increased care options, including the use of Cherry Lodge, the link foster carer scheme, or payments to the family so they can organise their own care arrangements.