THE new Health Village planned for Banbridge may be state-of-the-art but it will not provide the extra services so badly needed in the area.
That’s the claim of a Gilford mother after the Southern Trust confirmed the new facility due to be built at the Ballygowan Road will not provide any extra places for physically or mentally disabled patients requiring daycare.
Of the 66 places available altogether, none are new but rather come from the relocation of the Copperfields Day Care Centre and Banbridge Social Education Centre onto the site.
Bernie Scullion, a full-time carer for her son Christoper, told the Leader she fears for the future wellbeing of the teenager as budget cuts threaten services in the area.
“It’s great to have this new Health Village and all the units connected and state-of-the-art facilities but if they are going to pull places from elsewhere then they are not really helping the situation,” said Bernie.
Fifteen-year-old Christopher suffers from cerebral palsy as well as bouts of epilepsy and visual problems. He currently avails of daycare three or four times a month at Willowgrove Respite Centre run by Barnardos. Bernie, who hopes Christoper will obtain a place at Bannvale Social Education when he turns 18, said her son is “a wee treasure”, but she also expressed her anxiety over the uncertainty surrounding support services for carers as fours years of cuts to the Health budget take their toll.
“A few years ago we could have said with some certainty that that wouldn’t be a problem but my worry now is that by the time he moves into the adult services there will not be enough places left,” the mother-of-two said.
“We’re talking about four years of different cuts. It could be that I would have to look after Christopher continually.”
The £14 million funding needed to build the Health Centre was approved by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey last month. The decision was welcomed by many, but Hazel Owens of local group Carers Matter said it is difficult to see whether the new facility will address the real problems in the area.
“Naturally we must look at that Health Village as a positive but is it a case of new services or of existing services just being moved to the new village?” she asked.
“It’s ok having new state-of-the-art facilities as long as there are going to be the funds that are needed too. Carers very much rely on additional services and support.The services in place at the minute are at a minimum and the cuts outlined over the next four years will definitely have a detrimental effect on carers.”
A Southern Trust spokesman confirmed that while demand for places increases annually, no new places will be available at the Health Village.
“While the development of new day centres is very welcome the overall number of places available has not increased and demand for places in day centres increases year on year,” he said.
“The Trust continues to develop day time opportunities for adults with a disability which afford people opportunities to access community facilities and programmes that are not dependent on attending a day centre,” he added, saying no date has been set for building work on the Village to begin.
Bernie said the cuts will have a devastating effect further down the line.
“In the long-term the cutting of services which provide support for carers is going to have a negative effect on the Trust,” she said. “Carers themselves may become ill with the stress and strain of looking after their loved ones and in turn could require services themselves - the carer becoming the patient themselves if you like.”