Father speaks out about respite care challenges

The father of a disabled young man is concerned that many people who need respite support for their loved ones miss out because places are taken up by those needing long-term care.

Neil Man, whose 24-year-old son receives respite care at Beach House care home, in Hove, spoke out after hearing about Meredith McGill.

Mrs McGill, the mother of an autistic teenage boy with learning disabilities, was unable to not get respite care for her son during a family emergency.

Beach House is the home in Brighton and Hove offering respite care for over 18s.

And Mr Man, from Portslade, said that because people were living there long term, only two or three beds were available for overnight respite for the 50 or more families needing the service.

Mr Man and his partner used to have respite for five nights a month respite before the coronavirus pandemic when it was cancelled because of the lockdown and covid-related restrictions.

Brighton and Hove City Council has since reassessed their needs and the family has respite again.

He said: “We can’t cope without our overnight respite, after several months, including lockdown.

“There was no plan, no discussions. There was no communication or updates. It was dreadful.

“Even pre-covid, the situation was the same as it is now, with people living there and blocking the beds.

“We are now getting our respite after the difficulties and we’re very happy that our assessed needs are now being met.”

Mr Man said that he did not blame those who were stuck at the care home, in Westbourne Villas, because there was nowhere else locally for many of them to go.

He said: “The council needs to find somewhere for them – supported housing. If they’re moved into those places, the beds are freed for the intended purpose.

“The people living there, it’s not their fault. Some have been offered places outside the area and they’re not compelled to take them.

“Beach House has become a dumping ground for people who need residential homes and supported housing but can’t find it anywhere. There need to be more respite beds available to meet the needs of the people who need it.

Neil Man and his son

“There are 50 people who get support from Beach House and they are just the ones who’ve been assessed. There are dozens of people who can’t even get a care needs assessment to get respite.

“Someone at the council said that no one is complaining about the lack of respite and I just laughed because I know people aren’t getting the assessments. Their needs aren’t being met.

“People don’t make complaints because they’re exhausted. They worry about things being taken away. The council wouldn’t do that but it doesn’t stop the fear of rocking the boat.”

The challenge of care places for long-term residents is also affecting the council’s budget.

A recent report to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee forecast a £217,000 overspend in the current financial year related to long-term placement of adults with learning disabilities at Beach House.

The report also said that high levels of staff absence and the cost of emergency placements at Beach House were adding to the financial pressures.

Labour councillor John Allcock, the joint leader of the opposition, raised concerns that the council was projecting an overspend on residential respite care because of the cost of emergency placements.

Councillor John Allcock

The council’s adult social care chief Deb Austin said that there was a lack of alternative placements and her staff were “trying to be creative” in dealing with the problem.

Staffing was also a factor, she said, adding: “We are really struggling there in terms of workforce shortages, getting people in.

“That’s related to the cost of living crisis and, until very recently, we haven’t been that competitive. I’m hoping the agreement around pay grades will have a positive impact on that.”

The council said: “Our Beach House service provides both planned respite care for adults with learning disabilities and emergency respite placements.

“The emergency placements are particularly important for our older carers. This is because they themselves sometimes have health issues that can disrupt their ability to act as carers for weeks or sometimes months at a time.

“This inevitably means emergency placements can last for quite long periods of time. But it means we can give them the assurance they need that their son or daughter will be supported in a familiar environment while the carers fully recover their health.

“Nationally, social care services are finding it more and more difficult to meet the demands being placed on them.

“Long-term reductions in funding from central government and difficulties in recruiting staff are key issues. Brighton and Hove is no exception to this situation.

“However, Beach House continues to meet all existing planned respite arrangements for people and their families as well as taking new referrals for planned respite.”

  1. Merry Reply

    It is clear that there needs to be more in the way of emergency respite. Also, there needs to be a change in the way emergency respite is provided, for both children and adults. I believe there should be more respite foster care, but more needs to be done to attract specialist foster carers. There are solutions out there, but to date, they don’t appear to have been explored. The council will continue to carry on and accept the status quo unless we start demanding more for our children and families in the way of consistent, quality care, as opposed to catch-as-catch-can.

  2. Neil Man Reply

    There are 14 beds at BH, which is probably, albeit barely, adequate IF all of the beds were actually available for respite , but only 2-3 are available at any time because of the people effectively living there long-term or indefinitely.
    Plus, insufficient staffing levels and (to some extent ongoing “Covid restrictions”) have closed some beds.
    Some people have actually been living there 1-3 YEARS on “temporary” emergency placement. One person has been there over 3 years, aiui, on emergency placement!!!

    The issue is a structural one of insufficient specialist supported housing, inadequate longer-term emergency premises/beds and the staffing issues mentioned by Deb Austin. It all goes back to massive central government funding cuts of over £120,000,000 in BHCC over the last decade or so. Brexit, Covid and now the cost of living crisis have all highlighted, compounded and worsened the situation. It’s a perfect storm but the council have only a tiny parasol to combat.

    The council are firefighting, and trying to manage the service that can’t currently properly meet the needs of disabled people and the families. By doing so they’re not addressing the root causes.

    I do sympathise with the Officers, but they’re becoming complicit in the crisis by firefighting rather than seeking or demanding proper solutions. Staff have left and morale has been low, although now improving, I’m told.

    Assessments are being delayed, refused, discouraged or insufficient support offered , and assessed-needs being cut, dates changed, cancelled, reduced etc.
    I suspect the council is in breach of the Care/Children’s Acts by not providing annual (if needed) assessments and/or failing to fully and appropriately meet assessed needs of disabled people and/or parents/carers once they are assessed.

    It’s going to get worse as the council will be further limiting planned respite for new assessments and seeking to cut it for existing families. The People Too report into parts of our Social Care Services alludes to that as (I suspect) does Deb Austin when she says staff are being “creative”…..

    Reduced or inadequate planned respite will simply INCREASE the need for emergency respite, because it’ll push people over the edge.
    Respite is meant to PREVENT families not coping or going into crisis. People Too even admit that the respite service is now being used/seen as a crisis management service. That report is 2019, and nothing has tangibly changed to improve the situation.

    The (lack of) supply of specialist supported, indefinite emergency or permanent, housing is more complex but there are very simple reasons for this too. I won’t go into here though. Needless to say, it’s mostly down to government cuts to “revenue” funding.

    When it works, it works very well and the staff working at Beach House, Tudor House and Drove Rd are brilliant, but they need support and resources to run these vital premises to a full(er) capacity.
    The council Members need to scrutinise and fix it, just as they did with the home to school transport fiasco. Yes, it needs funding but it’s going to be cost effective in the long run.

    • mart Burt Reply

      Neil Man
      A lot to get through in your article that is mostly repeats of what we’ve already read.
      Interesting comment on funding, while Central Governments have made cuts, it’s down to our own ‘Council’ to decide where funding is allocated.
      This council has a history of wasting our taxation on vanity projects for a start, for example, it intends to remove some funds from the Toilet refurbishment programme to top up the Hove vanity project, that in my opinion isn’t a priority, toilets are. What will happen first, the Hove project or our toilets ?
      You talk about Transport to school, the system worked very well before the council decided to mess around with it causing the fiasco we had and cost thousands to mend.
      Staffing problems here in Brighton we are told is related to the cost of living crisis and, until very recently, we haven’t been that competitive. I’m hoping the agreement around pay grades will have a positive impact on that.
      Under funding is a big problem, but you can’t blame central government for every thing, the council knows what it is getting and knows how much it needs to put into the pot. Seems it can fund countless vanity projects and indeed take funds out of other sources, yet can’t fund more urgent projects like this.
      Perhaps instead of allowing more Student accommodation, how about homes for these people in dire need, or is that too much to ask.
      Better management is what we are lacking, priorities seem to be lacking from this council.
      It seems to me, they care more about cycle lanes and pretty flower pots than the care needed by it’s residents.

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