Centres' vital care work will be undone by funding cuts

First published in Salisbury Letters

WE are the grandparents of a little boy George, six, who has Down’s syndrome.

We are dismayed to hear the funding for the John McNeill Centre has been slashed yet again.

George and his twin brother Seth, who does not have Down’s syndrome, both attended John McNeill from April 2009 until George started mainstream school with Seth.

George would not have been able to cope with an ordinary nursery due to his complex needs. The centre enabled both boys to receive an amazing standard of pre-school education without being separated, which was so important to them as twins.

The staff at the centre gave tremendous support to our family as we struggled to come to terms with having twins with such differing needs. I cannot imagine how we would have coped without their expert help and guidance.

As a family, we received help and support from other families attending the centre and in turn were able to help others newly attending the centre.

George blossomed due to the expert education and encouragement he received from the amazing staff. It is due to this centre that he is now attending mainstream school as a happy, confident and gregarious little boy.

We will always support the work of this centre of excellence with our family donations in recognition of the help they gave our family in our time of need. The work they do is priceless.

The support of centres such as the John McNeill centre, which provide opportunities for children with disabilities not found in mainstream nursery education, is largely dependent on charity.

It is shameful this Government cares so little for the most vulnerable in our society.

Angela Bryant and her dedicated team are doing a great job against the odds. She is right - enough is enough.

Come on John Glen, speak up for the vulnerable children of Salisbury; they need your voice to be heard where it matters, in the city and in the corridors of Whitehall.

Derek and Alison Sewell, Salisbury 

  • YOUR front page leader (Journal, February 13) should put our Wiltshire councillors to shame for allowing this to happen.

It is one of the things that separate us from all other species that we can look after those who need help. Not only those, but their carers too.

It is also against government policy isn’t it? Is it any wonder that our flood victims are in despair?

We are a country that puts our hands into our pockets like no other country on Earth to help others, and we cannot even look after our own.

Just what is the EU doing in our plight? I hear not one whisper from that direction.

It is their directives we have followed in the maintenance of our waterways by refraining from taking out the built up silt by dredging. It now possibly needs to be dug out deeper.

The European fund set up in 2002 has given millions in the past to Germany, Austria, France, France and even the Czech Republic which was not even a full member.

This is money that Britain pays into the fund and in a very substantial way, and we should ask for it too.

And yes, we should ask just why we are giving money to Argentina, China, India and Nigeria?

John Wigglesworth, Durrington

  • HOW can these selfish people sleep at night?

Have they never heard a child cry because they been taken away from familiar surroundings and cannot understand why?

For goodness sake spend some time with them and if your heart is not made of stone you will see what I mean.

At nearly 83 years old I remember the old saying "I’m all right, Jack. Pull the ladder up".

S Annetts, Laverstock

  • I challenge any of the decision makers advocating cuts in services to Hillcote, The Douglas Arter Centre and John McNeill Opportunity Centre to spend just 24 hours with one of the vulnerable people who relies on that service and not change their mind. Care not cuts is essential in Wiltshire where "everybody matters".

Ted Haines, Salisbury

  • With reference to the cuts planned for local services, I assume that most of the people needing this help are not rich.

So they do not seem to count in the eyes of a Government which cares more about bankers’ bonuses and a high speed rail.

That seems to be what our millionaire-led Government is all about.

Ron Mayes, Durrington 

  • I was disturbed to read of the proposal by Scope to close the Douglas Arter Centre, a facility which caters to the needs of some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.

As a home for nine people with severe physical disabilities, some of whom are unable to talk and are 100 per cent dependent, it seems disingenuous of Scope to talk about giving them “greater choice and control over the services they receive”.

If the proposal to close the centre was to go ahead, all the residents will need to be found individual, adapted homes, with a range of built-in aids to meet their individual needs. In addition they will need 24 hour support services to allow them to live in the community.

How much will this new accommodation cost in terms of capital outlay and who will fund it? What will be the annual cost of supporting the residents in their own homes and who will meet it?

I put it to Scope that the present arrangements at the Douglas Arter Centre may in fact be in the best interests of those who live there, and the most economically efficient for UK plc as a whole, even if Scope perceive it to be “old fashioned” – and since when was this justification for such a radical step?

Scope is a leading charity which “exists to make this country a better place for disabled people and their families”. If the centre closes I believe they will have failed the very people they exist to support.

As Scope receives fees from the local authority for the services it provides at the centre, we may imagine that these are under pressure from local authority cuts, though this is not reported.

Luckily Scope’s 2013 financial summary reveals that it has reserves of £7m available to be applied to its charitable purposes.

Chris Dragonetti, Salisbury

  • WILTSHIRE Council is being fanatically barbaric with the cuts to the services which help our most vulnerable. First we had 250+ redundancies, then the Hillcote debacle. We at least had a public consultation on Hillcote, but sadly this was merely an effort to appease the public as the decision had already been made.

Now we are expecting massive cuts in the services we offer our youths like Bass Connection which has been helping youngsters for 50 years. The youth service also helps young carers have some fun away from the daily struggles of helping disabled family members.

I would appeal to all youngsters affected to stand up and make a public protest. Now is the time for the younger generation to start engaging with the democratic process.

If we do not continue to invest in the youth of today and show them that democracy works and things can be protected we will in effect be giving up on them and they will lose heart.

It is a very sorry state we live in if we alienate youths who we hope will be upstanding individuals in the future and take on the running of the country. It doesn’t have to be the so-called “well educated” types who take on the political mantle. People from all walks of life can make valuable contributions to society.

We need to ensure that everybody matters. It is Wiltshire Council’s own motto and it is really about time they started to show it.

Wiltshire has taken a battering from all the cuts in recent times and yet at no point has Wiltshire Council identified what these cuts will actually be used to achieve elsewhere, and please don’t tell me it is pothole repair.

Caroline Corbin, Salisbury City Councillor for Bemerton Ward


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