Left In Limbo

Parents are considering legal action over the decision to close a respite home in Epsom without the guarantee of alternative places for its severely disabled residents. Wells House is run by Surrey Social Services to provide short breaks and residential care for young people with complex needs. Two weeks ago a letter was sent to parents of 25 affected children announcing the home would close on November 13 because of “operational reasons”.

A new respite unit is planned to open in Tadworth next May and staff are “doing their best” to meet residents’ needs, the letter said.

Parents are angry about the lack of assurances that their care packages will be honoured in the interim.

Francis Gulliford, 34, whose quadraplegic daughter, Sadie, 15, has lived at Wells House in Spa Drive for nine years, said: “Six months is a long time. Sadie coming home is not an option, but we haven’t even been offered an alternative. It’s just a black hole of where and when.”

Ms Gulliford is concerned Sadie’s progress at her specialist school would be set back by transferring to another part of Surrey. “She cannot travel for more than an hour and may have to be removed from schooling just as she has started making real progress with her eye-pointing. Sadie is obviously not happy. She cannot speak but she was taken to the doctor recently because she stopped eating, which is her way of expressing herself.”

Natali Crowley is still to receive a response about what will happen to her severely autistic son, Dominic, aged 12. She said: “I just feel they aren’t considering the needs of the child. Moving to an alien environment is bad enough for anyone – imagine the trauma for an autistic boy. My husband faces giving up work to look after Dominic.”

The Advocacy, Mediation and Independent Investigation Service (Amiis) has forwarded some complaints to Surrey County Council.

The council’s complex needs team acknowledges there will be “concern and anxiety” as Wells House closes to become a “mainstream” children’s residential unit.

A spokesman said this week: “We are working closely with individual parents and their children on a case-by-case basis to discuss how we can best meet care provision needs. This may include provision at other units or domiciliary care where appropriate.”