South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called on the Health and Social Care Partnership to ensure that parents and carers are at the heart of any decisions on the future of Acorn House in Dumfries.

The MSPs comments come as the Partnership confirmed that a report on the review of the Short Breaks Service for children and young people will come before the Partnership’s Board at their next meeting on 25 September.

In December 2017 Colin Smyth met with NHS Dumfries and Galloway and urged them to put a halt to the review they were carrying out into the service, following wide spread criticism over the lack of parent and carer involvement in that review and instead bring in an external independent adviser to carry out any review and properly involve parents.

NHS bosses took the matter to the review project board, who agreed with the MSP’s proposal and UK Children’s charity Action for Children were commissioned by the Health and Social Care Partnership to look at the current arrangements for short break provisions for children and young people within Dumfries and Galloway.

More than 18 months since it was agreed to carry out an independent look at provision, Action for Children will publicly “hand over” their report to members of the Integrated Joint Board at their September meeting, although it is understand that health bosses have had the report since June.

A key part of the review will be the future of Acorn House in Dumfries, which provides short-term stay respite breaks for children and young people with learning disabilities, challenging behaviour or complex needs.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “Parents and carers were rightly angered that they weren’t been properly consulted during the initial review of the short term breaks service for their children and were deeply concerned that the review was already a done deal, with Acorn House closing. I urged the NHS to put a halt to that process and bring in someone independent to carry out an external review and fully involve parents and carers. I am pleased that an independent review has happened and at long last we will see the findings of the report from Action for Children, which has been sitting on the desk of NHS bosses now for several months. This has been an anxious time for parents and carers but also staff who have been left in limbo by this process”.

“It is now vital that parents and carers are fully consulted on any recommendations in the report before the next steps are agreed by the Integrated Joint Board.  Only by ensuring parents and carers are at the very heart of any decisions, will the NHS be able to regain their trust and be confident that they are meeting the needs of the children who rely so heavily on this service”.

“There will be real concern from everyone that this report is being published at a time the local NHS have admitted that they need to make yet more cuts to services.  We need to avoid at all costs reducing the provision available to some of our most vulnerable children young people and that’s what I will be fighting for, including retaining Acorn House.”

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