Assurances given as council decides to end use of Kelso respite short-break facility

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THE local authority has given an assurance to families that the closure of a respite short-break facility in Kelso will not mean a diminution of the service.

Concerns were expressed at a Kelso Community Council meeting about what the impact would be of Scottish Borders Council’s decision to give up the lease on a property in the town’s Bowmont Street when it comes to an end in March.

The premises are leased from Eildon Housing Association and Ark Housing Association delivers the short-break service on behalf of the Scottish Borders Learning Disability Service, which comprises the local authority and NHS Borders.

At the community council meeting, local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston (Con) commented: “We need to do all we can to try and make sure the people who depend on these premises have alternative arrangements made for 
them.”

Eildon’s chief executive, Nile Istephan, this week confirmed that the council’s use of the Bowmont Street property would be ending and that it would be converted into accommodation for general rent after 21 years of use for respite breaks.

Contacted by TheSouthern, a spokesperson for SBC told us: “The council has been reviewing short breaks – respite opportunities – for people with a learning disability and their family carers.

“The aim of the review is to offer people a broader range of opportunities and as part of this process there has been discussion about anticipated demand and the best way to provide residential respite provision.

“It is recognised that the current accommodation at Bowmont Street in Kelso is not suitable to meet the range of needs which are presented, and as such the council has indicated that the lease on the property will not be required longer term and alternative accommodation is actively being considered.

“In the meantime, for those people and their families who are currently using this service, individual reviews are taking place to develop opportunities and we can reassure families that there will be no diminution of service.

“The council acknowledges that this will be an anxious time for people with a learning disability and their families, and will continue to work closely with all partners to maintain and develop a range of opportunities.”

There will be further public consultation on the proposals in December, and anyone with any queries is advised to contact the Scottish Borders Learning Disability Service.

Jan Murdoch, communications manager for the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability, a charity consisting of 12 partner organisations, including Capability Scotland, Down’s Syndrome Scotland and three universities, says respite short breaks can now be delivered in a variety of ways, one of the most important things being to ensure that individuals and their families are kept informed of any changes.

“We have no knowledge of what the provision is in question [Kelso], but what I would say is that short breaks for respite are extremely important – as important now as they have always been.

“And respite and short breaks can be delivered in a variety of quite innovative ways – it doesn’t have to be buildings-based.

“From the council’s response, it certainly appears to be making all the right noises and looking at what local people need, as well as keeping all those affected informed and involved in the process.”

Ms Murdoch agreed such changes could cause worry for families and carers.

“Informing people as early as possible, and ensuring that information is accessible, makes a big difference,” she said.