Shift in complex needs provision

A COUNCIL-RUN centre for youngsters with learning difficulties will close and its services transferred to local high schools, writes Sandy Neil.

Howdenburn Schoolhouse in Jedburgh helps 16-19-year-olds with complex learning needs to develop skills and attributes for life and work, so that they can become as independent as possible.

The Lothian Road centre is used as a base for this transitions service, helping the teenagers move from secondary school to adult life, with most students attending through a shared placement with their school.

But Stella Everingham, the council’s head of integrated children’s services confirmed: “No firm referrals this year [has] presented us with the opportunity to move to a locally-based approach.”

Some children will continue to be educated at Howdenburn during the academic year 2013-14, but she said there would there will be no starts in August 2013.

She told The Southern: “There were only four young people definitely using the service in 2013/14 and this provided an opportunity to use staff time to develop locally-based provision. This means Howdenburn staff will be supporting children in their local high schools.

“This is not a cost-cutting exercise and no savings are being identified as part of this approach.”

Testimonials are quoted on its website. One states: “Howdenburn is an excellent facility for children with complex needs. I only wish there was a similar facility for adults in the Scottish Borders.

Another parent writes: “As a progression from school, it helps them to prepare for adult life.”

A student states: “It makes me feel grown up”, while another says: “I like Howdenburn because my friends there keep me company. They are my new friends.”

Ms Everingham told us:“A new complex needs centre within the old Earlston High School is planned and will cater for young people who cannot be supported fully by local provision. A secondary centre will be developed within this new setting and may include some young people who have traditionally attended Howdenburn where locally-based packages are insufficient to meet their needs.”