Families of adults with disabilities who frequent a newly-opened four bed respite house in Murritown have expressed major concerns that their services will be reduced as a result of HSE opening the facility up to two other counties.
When the state of the art Windrock house opened just outside Wexford last summer to cater for adults with special needs, it was heralded as a godsend to parents and carers in the area. Previously, respite services were only available in north Wexford and availability was extremely limited.
However, these parents and carers now harbour great concerns that the level of services offered there will be dramatically decreased as the HSE plans to open up the four beds to families in Carlow and Kilkenny as well as Wexford.
Local campaigner, Jane Johnstone, whose 19 year-old son Evan has availed of the services offered at the house, says that currently in Carlow and Kilkenny, there are no respite services for adults with disabilities.
'This came to light last week,' she said. 'Obviously we would attach no blame to the families in Carlow and Kilkenny who require respite. They need these services just as much as we do. The obvious solution would be to provide them with respite services of their own rather than to dilute down already limited services in Wexford.'
'For the HSE, this solution just ticks a box,' she continued. 'For carers and families though, this is our lives. We depend on respite services like these.'
Jane couldn't speak highly enough of the staff and facilities at Windrock and pointed out just how important these services are to many families in Wexford.
'For my boy, Evan, respite is very important to him,' she said. 'Just like any other lad of his age, he doesn't want to be stuck with his mam all the time. It gives him a little bit of independence. For carers like myself, it gives me my only chance of a full night's sleep. He can have disruptive sleep patterns and you do need a little break so you don't burnout. That's how we survive. He comes back in great form and I'm rested and ready to go again.'
Jane's other teenage son Daniel also has an intellectual disability and attends services locally, while her daughter Ciara lends a hand stepping in as a carer whenever she can.
'Family carers save the state somewhere in the region of €4 billion each year,' she said. 'A small break every now and again surely is not too much to ask. Everyone is very supportive, but the bottom line is that we need more than four respite beds, not less. If this goes through, individual services will have to be reduced. Everyone will end up getting a little less.'
The HSE have stated that, 'based on existing provision and current demands within the South East Community Healthcare (SECH), the HSE was able to fund both the commissioning and operating costs of this new house and the opportunity to increase capacity in other areas across the SECH - which included an extra nights respite in South Tipperary and once off summer camps for preschool and school age children.'
They added that while Windrock was to accessible to all those living in the SECH area, they do have further plans to open a respite house for children in Tullow, Co Carlow, later this year.