Parents and guardians have condemned Doncaster Council’s plans to close a residential home that offers respite care for children with disabilities.
The Eden Lodge home in Stainforth could close in October as the council looks for savings to balance the books.
Over 120 people have signed a petition against the closure and concerned parents have set up a Facebook group called ‘Save Eden Lodge’.
Cabinet members will meet on Wednesday to agree a consultation process, with the aim of making a final decision on the closure in July.
They'll consider a report that says Eden Lodge costs £572,600 a year to run, which is unsustainable following heavy cuts to the council’s health budget.
The council would save £250,000 this year if they were to go ahead with their plan. It is a saving they factored into their 2012 budget.
No more children are being admitted to the home, which is highly rated by Ofsted and parents.
The council say that based on children’s needs, Doncaster only requires one residential home.
They also said Eden Lodge represents very poor value for money and is not sustainable in the current economic climate.
Martin Forrestall, whose son Michael, 11, spends four nights a month at Eden Lodge disputes this. He said he felt misled by the council.
“Nineteen families turned up to the first meeting we had and we were all outraged. The council has said that a majority of families were happy but that is ridiculous. We had 19 parents at the meeting.
“The council use numbers to baffle us but we are not happy at all. We are fighting to keep it open.
“The staff there are absolutely fantastic. It isn’t the simple fact that my son gets respite. It is the invisible services that Eden Lodge provides which is important.
“He gets to mix with other children there and he is learning social skills. That benefits him. He can be himself at Eden Lodge. He is at home there. “
The council has said it could support families after the closure by providing individual care workers, or making payments that they could invest in their own care plans.
But Mr. Forrestall rejected these suggestions.
“How can my son play football on his own? How can he play snooker on his own? He needs his friends with him," he said.
“Harmony House has been touted as a replacement, but it is a drop in centre. Michael isn’t used to seeing new people so if you have people walking in and out how is that good for my son.
“Oaklands is another alternative but it is designed for children with more serious needs. I cannot understand the logic behind it. Eden Lodge has had thousands spent on it over the last 18 months.
“I don’t understand why there is such a rush to close it. The building isn’t going anywhere, its an old building which has been refurbished, I don’t understand it.”
Mr Forrestall also said that he was only told of the plans to close Eden Lodge 10 days ago, and to find new care is a tough ask.
He added that his son Michael would find it hard to adapt to new surroundings and that change can be distressing.
Lorraine Roberts, 53, was also angry about the proposed plans.
Mrs Roberts looks after her two grandchildren Darwin and Leon, with Darwin, 16, an attendee at Eden Lodge.
“We are all angry as our kids don’t like change. He was at one unit which closed down just as he settled,” she said.
“They then refurbished Eden Lodge and that is where he goes. Now they are looking at closing it in October.
“The council say they can find alternatives but it is still a big change for Darwin and that has a knock on effect for our family. He can’t cope with these changes.”
She added: “They are promising things but when it comes to October is it going to right for Darwin. They are pushing direct payments but that isn’t good because I will have to find someone to look after him.
“It is difficult to find someone you can trust to look after him. I am not having a stranger look after him, he is already vulnerable. It isn’t good.
“I am getting older, my husband is in his 60s. We are grandparents. We really need the support to keep Darwin at home.”
Mrs Roberts also sang the praises of Eden Lodge. She said: “It is a wonderful place, it feels like an extended family. He does things he can’t do at home. They even took him to X-Factor last year.
“He learns things there which he can’t do at home as he plays up at home. He is 16 and he needs to be busy. He can’t play out on the streets because he has no friends there.”JUS News approached the council for comment but were unable to make contact with Cllr Eric Tatton-Kelly, cabinet member with responsibility for young people's services.
We also couldn’t speak to the author of the report, and Director of Children and Young Persons services Chris Pratt. We were asked instead to send an email.
The Facebook campaign can be seen here.
The petition can be seen here.
The council report can be seen here.