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Respite care home granted temporary reprieve after legal challenge

The Vicarage is a homely and quiet respite care home in Cheltenham, used by adults with severe learning disabilities when their families take well-earned short breaks from their care. It is used by some 31 local people, including Andrew Graves and Audrey Doyle.

In October Gloucestershire County Council, which operates the home, told their families that the Vicarage would close for a three-month trial period and offered the families alternative respite care in a much larger facility that is much further away from their homes. The Council said that there was not enough demand for the Vicarage to keep it open. It The families were devastated by the council’s move, which was taken with no prior consultation

Worried about the effect on their relatives, the families contacted Central England Law Centre for help. Their investigations revealed that over the past 18 months some users of the service had had their respite reduced, despite its importance in enabling family carers to continue to care. This raised concerns that the Council’s assessment of the demand for respite was based on incorrect figures.

In response to legal correspondence, the Council has agreed to withdraw its closure decision and begin a proper consultation process. It has also promised to fully reassess all Vicarage service users before making any further decision on closure. Andrew’s and Audrey’s families are very relieved at the reprieve. They hope the Council will reconsider once they realise what the true need for respite is.

Michelle Graves, mother of Andrew, said:

We are encouraged to hear that the Council has put on hold its plans to close the Vicarage. We hope that the forthcoming consultation will fully take into account individual client’s needs and avoid unnecessary disruption to their lives. Our son, like many others, is incapable of verbally expressing his own views and is particularly unsettled by change.

Anne Watkins, sister of Audrey Doyle, said:

I am very pleased with the outcome of my sister’s respite staying open until there has been time for a consultation with all the families as it is so very important to us. I am very thankful of help we have had from the Law Centre. Without their help I don’t know what we would have done.

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Notes for editors

  1. Central England Law Centre is a charity providing free legal advice to disadvantaged people on problems relating to benefits, community care, debt, discrimination, employment, family, housing, immigration and public law.
  2. CELC has offices in Birmingham and Coventry. For more details on the work of the Birmingham office see http://birminghamclc.org.uk/.
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