Mum's plea for Northern Ireland care home which could take care of her disabled son
The mother of a profoundly disabled boy who was told she should consider putting him into residential care in England because there is nowhere suitable in Northern Ireland has welcomed an investigation into the possibility of a new facility here.
The Health and Social Care Board has begun a study into establishing a regional centre for children with severe learning disabilities - but while Londonderry mother Rosie Barrett welcomed the announcement, she said unless the board moves rapidly it will be of no use to her.
Her son Tyrone was born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome - a genetic condition that severely affects his physical and learning abilities and leaves him prone to violent and uncontrollable outbursts towards anyone near him.
Tyrone can also direct these violent episodes at himself and has previously attempted to throw himself down stairs, banged his head against walls and floors and tried to gouge out his eyes.
Ms Barrett was told by the Western Trust when she finally accepted her son needed 24-hour residential care that the only places open to her were in England.
She said the new 'scoping study' needs to be followed with rapid action if children like her son are to be spared being cut off from their families here.
Ms Barrett said: "I am delighted the board is at last starting to look at providing proper residential care here for children with complex needs like my son.
"What worries me and what must not be allowed to happen is that this will be a protracted process that will go on for years.
"The need for a residential facility here is real and immediate.
"This doesn't just affect me and my family - there are lots more in the same position as us.
"There is no way I could place my son in a home in England where he would be isolated from me and where I would not be able to see that he is being cared for and looked after in the way he deserves. I know there are places in Derry which could easily be turned into a residential care home for children with complex needs like Tyrone.
"We just need the board to take action so that our children can be cared for close to their families instead of being shipped off to England."
Former Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann has championed Ms Barrett's call for a facility for children that would save them from being sent to England.
He added: "This is the result of campaigning by hard-pressed parents across a number of trusts.
"At present, there are parents in every trust across the North who are struggling to maintain children with severe learning disabilities, behavioural issues and complex needs in their own homes. Some of the parents are already in crisis and looking for residential care now. A scoping study could be done quickly since everyone knows that the need is there and is urgent. The money is there, it is time to get working to ensure that the right to a family life of these most vulnerable of children is upheld."
The Health and Social Care Board had not replied to a request for comment by the time of going to press last night.