South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has described as “common sense” the decision to suspend the current consultation process on Short Break Services in Dumfries and Galloway due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision puts on hold a series of consultation meetings being run on behalf of the local Health and Social Care partnership into the future of services across the region, including Acorn House in Dumfries which provides respite breaks for children with learning disabilities, challenging behaviour or complex needs.

The options appraisal consultations followed the recent independent review into the service by charity Action for Children.

Their report, “Short Breaks Review – Acorn House”, which was presented to the Health and Social Care Partnerships Integrated Joint Board in September, concluded that “Acorn House short break service plays an essential role in maintaining the wellbeing of eligible families”.

The Report made a number of recommendations on how services at Acorn House could be improved and identified areas of need for 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.

A number of consultation meetings across the region begin in March but the consultation has now been suspended until further notice.

Colin Smyth said: “This decision is common sense as stopping all gatherings at this time must be a priority.

“It will be frustrating for many families and staff who have seen this whole issue drag on for far too long and the uncertainty about future services will continue for many more months but I know those who have spoken to fully understand that the priority now is to stay at home when you can. However, it is vital that when the consultation re-opens, the families and staff are fully listened to.”

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