Belfast Telegraph

Parents' fears as children's respite centre The Cottage faces axe in Derry

By Donna Deeney

Parents of children with profound learning disabilities say they are terrified the Western Trust will close the only respite facility they have in Londonderry.

The families of children attending The Cottage have been told by the Trust that this service is "under review" sparking fears among parents like Jackie and Frankie Gallagher that this 'lifeline' will be taken from them.

Their son Eoin (15) attends The Cottage respite facility for an average of three days a month which allows the rest of the Gallagher family precious time to recharge their batteries.

Mrs Gallagher explained why the time her son Eoin spends at The Cottage is so important.

She said: "My son Eoin is severely and profoundly disabled. He is wheelchair bound, he can't walk, he cannot talk, he cannot dress himself and he cannot undress himself.

"Each day trying to cope with a severely disabled child is very, very difficult and typically even getting Eoin up in the morning is exhausting.

"Getting him washed and dressed is a struggle because Eoin doesn't understand and can't work with me and even though I can't lift him because he weighs almost the same as I do, I still have to go for it as best as I can.

"The two or three days a month Eoin spends at The Cottage lets us recharge our batteries and also allows my husband and I to spend time with our other children and that is exactly the same for the other parents.

"The Cottage is our lifeline and as parents of profoundly disabled children we are terrified the Western Trust is going to cut services to the most vulnerable of all - disabled children."

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: "Coupled with an increased demand for short break services the Trust is taking this opportunity to reform our services.

"This review includes The Cottage and aims to assist the Trust make best use of its available resources.

"Trust staff will engage with families on an individual basis over the next week."

"The Trust is committed to providing a broad range of support for families who have children with disabilities.

She added: "The Trust is tasked with ensuring that services are designed accordingly and that there is a range of provision that is accessible and appropriate."

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