Social care provision at Firvale has been closed to service users since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. The County Council is proposing that the unit could remain closed, with respite care offered in alternative accommodation or through the provision of alternative services.
The County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Roz Chadd, approved recommendations for a consultation to be undertaken at her recent decision day meeting (14 January 2022).
She said: “I know how important it is for the families of children and young people with disabilities to have access to respite care. Before making any final decisions however, I agree that it is important for us to consult with stakeholders and see what they think about the proposal so that this can be taken account of alongside other considerations. Most particularly, I am keen that we capture feedback from the children, young people and families who benefit from respite care, as well as staff who support in the delivery of that care.”
Firvale is jointly operated with Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT). However, the proposal relates only to the five social care beds which provide short-stay residential respite care for children and young people with disabilities.
The online consultation is open for 10 weeks – from 17 January until 28 March 2022. An Information Pack setting out the proposal and background, together with the consultation Response Form, can be found on the consultation webpage.
In order to assist children, young people and their families who may have queries about the proposal and its potential implications, a series of information events have been arranged to take place during the consultation period and details of the events can also be found on the consultation web page.
An analysis of the consultation feedback will be included in a report with recommendations for the future of Firvale, to be considered by Councillor Chadd in the Autumn of 2022.
Alternative provisionIf it is agreed that the current temporary closure of Firvale should become permanent, respite care for children, young people and their families could comprise:
• Overnight respite with external service providers - which offers better value for money, per bed per night.
• Respite care provided in the home of foster carers using Specialist Respite Care (‘Home from Home’);
• Alternative services and interventions, such as support and intervention to tackle sleep issues, or behaviour management support, enabling a child or young person to remain at home.
Rationale for proposalThe cost to upgrade and maintain Firvale, to ensure that the unit remains fit for purpose to provide overnight respite care for children and young people with disabilities, is estimated is to be a minimum of £400,000. The County Council is keen to ensure that funding for overnight respite care is directed to the children and young people receiving the service, rather than infrastructure costs.
Additionally, recent building developments on the site where Firvale is located has resulted in a loss of privacy within bedrooms and the grounds.
In Summer 2021 the County Council consulted the public on how it could balance its budget -www.hants.gov.uk/aboutthecouncil/haveyoursay/consultations/balancing-the-budget. Subsequently, the savings programme to 2023 (SP23) was agreed by the Council’s Cabinet in October 2021, requiring the County Council to save at least £80 million by April 2023.
The proposal outlined within this consultation, if agreed, would contribute £450,000 towards the Children’s Services total savings target of £21 million, while still ensuring that Children’s Services continues to meet its statutory duties through a range of alternative provision.
Other ways people can provide feedback
People can also email their response directly to Hampshire County Council using the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Freepost HAMPSHIRE, writing Firvale H4972 on the back of the envelope.
Those who do not have access to the internet can request a paper copy of the Information Pack or the Response Form. Additionally, if a copy in another language or format (such as audio, large print or Braille) is needed, or for any queries about the consultation, people can contact: email@example.com or call: 0300 555 1384
At the information events children and young people, their parents or carers, members of the public and other stakeholders will be able to:
• find out more about the alternative overnight respite services which could be used instead of Firvale;
• talk to Hampshire County Council staff.
No booking is required for the in-person events. For the virtual events registration will be required via Eventbrite Once registered people will be sent a link with instructions on how to access and join the virtual event.
Event dates are:
Thursday 3 February, 10am to 1pm at Basingstoke Discovery Centre, Festival Place Shopping Centre, Basingstoke RG21 7LS
Wednesday 9 February, 1pm to 4pm at Gosport Discovery Centre, High Street, Gosport PO12 1BT
Monday 14 February, 1pm to 4pm - Virtual Session held online
Friday 25 February, 1pm to 4pm, Basingstoke Discovery Centre, Festival Place Shopping Centre, Basingstoke RG21 7LS
Tuesday 1 March, 10am to 1pm - Virtual Session held online
Wednesday 16 March, 7pm to 10pm - Virtual Session held online
Thursday 17 March, 10am to 1pm - Chandler’s Ford Library, Oakmount Road, Chandler's Ford, Eastleigh SO53 2LH