Local families campaigning against the possible closure of Acorn House in Dumfries had the opportunity to put their case to the Cabinet Secretary for Health this week (Monday 19th February) at a meeting organised by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.
The meeting with Shona Robison took place at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary during her visit to the region and gave families the chance to share their stories about the vital role Acorn House plays in providing short-term stay respite breaks for children with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour or complex needs.
Colin Smyth has been working with parents across Dumfries and Galloway concerned about the future of Acorn House, and last month he secured a commitment from NHS Dumfries and Galloway to adopt his proposal that an external, independent adviser should be brought in to carry out any review of the Short Breaks Services, following criticism by parents of the current process. He has stepped up the campaign against closure by securing the meeting with the Health Secretary.
Commenting on the meeting South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “Parents are rightly angry about the way in which this whole review has been handled by NHS Dumfries and Galloway and wanted to make that point to the Health Secretary, which is why I arranged for them to meet Shona Robison. There have been deep concerns that the review was a done deal and the NHS and local Health and Social Care partnership had pretty much decided that Acorn House should close. Last month I secured a commitment from the NHS to affectively put the current review on hold and bring in someone independent of the local NHS to carry out an external review and properly involve parents. That commitment has been a huge step forward and its now vital that parents are involved in selecting who that independent person is. I am pleased that Shona Robison agreed with this and said she would make that clear to the local NHS. We now need a clear timetable for the review and details of exactly how parents and their children will be involved in helping shape the services that ultimately have a huge impact on their lives. We all know the local NHS have a massive budget challenge but when balancing the books involves targeting support for disabled children that is frankly a step too far”.
Commenting on the meeting representatives of the parents group Peter and Mary Bulmer said, "We are grateful that the meeting with Shona Robison was arranged as it gave parents a chance to share our stories about what Acorn House means for our children and to stress just what a lifeline service it provides for families. Along with other families, we are deeply disappointed by the way the NHS has handled this review of respite care for children which seems to have been driven by a desire to make savings at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It was important to make the Cabinet Secretary aware of our deep concerns over the review and our fears that this was a done deal. We hope that the recent decision to bring in someone independent and external to carry out the review will mean the whole process starts again and is motivated by a desire to build on the success of Acorn House, not shut the door to it for local families. All we ask is that families that need these services are fully involved in this review and listened to " .