South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed the conclusion of an independent ‘Action for Children’ report “Short Breaks Review – Acorn House” that “Acorn House short break service plays an essential role in maintaining the wellbeing of eligible families” and warned that the Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integration Joint Board should now put an end to any speculation that Acorn House should be closed and instead commit to enhancing services there and across the region.

The comments come as ‘Action for Children’ presented the findings from their review to the Board today (25 September 2019) Their Report was produced after Action for Children had observed the operation of Acorn House on a day to day basis and carried out approximately 50 interviews with families who use or are eligible to use Acorn House, staff working at Acorn House and practitioners from across the region.

The Report makes a number of recommendations on how services at Acorn House could be improved and identified areas of need of families with children and young people with complex needs that are not being met, particularly in the West of the region.

The independent review was held after Colin Smyth met with NHS Dumfries and Galloway in December 2017 and urged them to put a halt to their own internal review into the service, following wide spread criticism over the lack of parent and carer involvement. The local MSP called on the NHS to 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.

Colin Smyth said, “Families who use Acorn House and staff who work there have been left in limbo for two years due to the uncertainty over the future of the facility and there is no doubt that during this time services have been slowly eroded there. But now that the finding of Action for Children’s independent Review have at last been published, it is essential that NHS Dumfries and Galloway and the Health and Social Care Partnership now co-produce with families what future services will be.

The report from Action for Children is clear in its conclusion that services provided by Acorn House are essential. A firm commitment should now be given that Acorn House will remain open, that it will be at the centre of the short term breaks service going forward and that families will shape what those services should be.

The report does give a number of recommendations on how current services could be improved and that needs to be the focus, not cutting services. The local NHS still have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust with families and their own staff due to the poor way this whole process was handled at the start. I will continue to fight to ensure they rebuild that trust by involving families and staff way to fully in the next steps, not keep them in the dark which happened in the past.”

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