MPs Demand Answers to Crazy Plan to Close Respite Care Bungalows

MPs Steve McCabe and Richard Burden held a joint meeting on 17 February 2014 with families and carers of adults with learning difficulties who have been receiving respite care at the Kingswood Bungalows, Kingswood Drive, Monyhull Hall Road since the purpose built, specialist accommodation opened in 2000.

Recently the Joint Commissioning Team, responsible for the use of resources on behalf of Birmingham City Council and the city’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups revealed that they had a plan to wind down the accommodation and close the facilities.

Families are naturally furious, not least because of the long struggle they had with the former Health Authority to agree to the building of the bungalows when the respite care beds at the former Monyhull Hospital were closed.

At a recent meeting with families and local Brandwood councillors, following presentation of a petition containing 2000 signatures to the council, Mr Jon Tomlinson Director of Joint Commissioning Team told families and carers that no decision had been taken but a report by him to the Council Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee dated 30th October 2013 talks of  a ‘managed exit ....from the Respite/Short breaks and Day services at Hob Moor Road and Kingswood Drive’ and that they propose implementing the changes by 31st March 2015 The report also talks about a consultation beginning in November 2013.  A similar briefing for the Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board from Jon Tomlinson dated January 2014 also makes clear a plan for closure and suggests starting a formal consultation in April 2014.

The families claim that the bungalows are being deliberately run down and a business plan has been deployed that can only result in failure so that the authorities can then claim the bungalows are not economic. They are not clear if the many inaccuracies in the reports are down to incompetence or a deliberate ploy but its clear there conflicting stories from staff at the Joint Commissioning Team and several of their actions look like a softening up exercise designed to close this respite care facility. These include: constant changes of the assessment criteria to exclude more and more users and cutting the number of beds used from 12 to 6. They worry that all of this is evidence of a determined pattern by the Joint Commissioning Team to close the bungalows.

Steve said he was very disturbed by the antics of the Joint Commissioning Board who hadn’t even had the courtesy to keep him apprised of their plans. He said: “So much for the government putting health and care planning in the hands of patients and carers. These officials have never wanted these bungalows and seem to be using every trick in the book to close them.”

The MPs promised to seek an early meeting with the Joint Commissioning Team to find out exactly what is going on and what kind of financial planning is being done to ensure the maximum benefit from these purpose built facilities.

Richard Burden MP (Northfield) which is the adjacent constituency and where many of the service users live, said: ‘With all the pressure that carers face, Good respite care is more important than ever. People need a break. The Commissioning team say they want to make sure people get the respite care they need but there are big question marks about how their direction of travel will allow that to happen. The families are asking important questions, and Steve and I have told them  they have our support in getting the answers they deserve.”

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