Achieving For Children - we want you to keep Croft Cottage respite open - and this is why
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Croft Cottage is a fantastic 2 bedroom facility at 20 Windham Road, Richmond TW9 2HP that provides much needed overnight respite for parents & families of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). It offers these children 24-hour periods away from home in a safe, secure environment cared for by amazing staff. We are one of those families: our daughter Darcey goes there. Like many of the other children, it takes her a long time to build up relationships through continuity of staff and the familiarisation this affords. Change can be very difficult for our children to deal with.
Croft Cottage is run by local charity Enhanceable http://www.enhanceable.org/services/respite-and-short-breaks/#croft-cottage who were awarded the contract by Achieving For Children (AFC) after the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames (LBRuT) had issues with successive managers resulting in a failure to remain open consistently and a poor OFSTED rating. It is the only overnight respite facility for children in Richmond (see The Local Offer site run by AFC at https://www.afclocaloffer.org.uk ). It is also in the same building where The Crofters After-School, Saturday and Holiday SEND Clubs run, so is immeasurably convenient when coordinating the transfer of children who have sequential provisions in both.
Unfortunately Enhanceable have decided not to re-apply for the contract when it runs out on 23 April because the remuneration value is not enough and it’s been costing them to run the stipulated service. They are not allowed to bring in funding from other sources and AFC refuse to increase the contract value. There often seems to be a problem when a Local Authority knows how much it cost to run a facility in-house then tries to somehow save money tendering it out to a third party for less than this figure. We believe the shortfall to be about £25k and also have it on good authority that if this contract could be renegotiated satisfactorily Enhanceable would continue to run it.
Apparently AFC’s decision was based on a report containing these incorrectly contextualised and incorrect statements: the cost of the contract - let’s say arbitrarily £125k - not being ‘cost effective’ as ‘only’ 8 families benefit from it; and the OFSTED ratings for it going DOWN over the period of Enhanceable’s management.
Croft Cottage actually benefits 11 families from 12 referrals of Assessed Need by Social Services. Social Services are responsible for how used the service is. Enhanceable only assess whether they can cope on an individual basis with a referred child (hence 11 out of 12). If AFC consider under-use a factor they should be addressing Social Services’ performance in this not holding that against Enhanceable. In context £125k/year for 11 families is EXTREMELY cost-effective compared to the c.£250k/year cost of placing even one child in full-time care if any of these currently supported families find they can't cope.
The OFSTED reports for Croft Cottage under Enhancehable actually IMPROVED chronologically from the initial rating of 'Needs Improvement’ (inherited from LBRuT) to ‘Good’ (apparently only 3 points short of Excellent) in August 2016 - see https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/CARE/SC490136 It is an oversight by OFSTED that the exact property address is omitted from the report published online and has caused confusion. SC490136 is the Unique Reference Number for Croft Cottage. Enhanceable Head Office at 13 Geneva Road is listed as the ‘Registered Person’s Address’.
As an alternative we and other parents have potentially been offered overnight respite at Warren Park (on Kingston Hill) but we have yet to see whether it’s suitable for our children or hear if they do actually have capacity to meet all of our assessed needs. Warren Park is an 11 bedroomed house run for the Royal Borough of Kingston (RBK) by Action For Children (another Charity). We (and others) are faced with little option but to go there, although more rooms means more children/people and in our case Darcey gets distressed in a noisy environment. It will also take a long time to go thru the familiarisation process again and to feel confident leaving our children there overnight.
From the reports (listed with links at the foot of this email) the big picture strategy for overnight respite provision in Richmond & RBK going forward appears to be to in turn cease the contract with Action For Children at Warren Park and "build a new 12 bed (UPDATE 31 JAN 2017 NOW ONLY 8 BEDS) respite care facility at the Moor Lane Centre (in Chessington) on land adjacent to the building already occupied by the Integrated Service for Children with Disabilities (ISCD). This ‘in-house’ facility would deliver consistently high quality care in a cost-effective manner. Its proximity to the other services at Moor Lane would also allow the superior integration of other professionals (eg. paediatricians and therapists) involved with the care of the child or young person and their family.”
Parents fought hard lobbying Vince Cable (then MP for Twickenham) to make sure that funding was secured so LBRut could build the Croft Cottage facility. It’s remarkable that only a few short years after this and LBRuT trying - and failing - to run it as an in-house facility, then tendering it out to a third-party on the basis of that being a more cost-effective way of running it, AFC should now consider closing it to save the c. £150k running costs. Then propose to set out again on the same path and spend upwards of £800k building, and more, running, another in-house facility.
Due to the nature of this respite being overnight, quite often at weekends and without a parent being present we’re confused as to exactly how the "proximity to … other services at Moor Lane”, "would … allow the superior integration of other professionals” in terms of access to paediatricians who aren’t around at those times? Personally, we’ve never had to co-ordinate a visit to Croft Cottage with that of a therapist either as all of our daughter’s interventions occur through her school. Certainly not one of those at Moor Lane as being a Richmond family we have no connection with any service there. This might be different for other children, but I haven’t seen it myself.
Undoubtedly it should be a great thing having more overnight respite beds available… however using Moor Lane instead of Warren park will mean only 12 instead of their 11, but keeping Croft Cottage open would mean 14. More essentially it would widen the footprint of availability with Windham Road being convenient for the wider community in Richmond Borough in contrast to Moor Lane which is miles away in Chessington. It only takes a brief look at a map of both Boroughs to see that Chessington (Moor Lane) isn’t even central to RBK, and positively inconvenient for anybody in Richmond as it’s way down south and out of the Borough.
Even with a new facility at Moor Park the case for keeping Croft Cottage running in Richmond is therefore overwhelming;
• Purpose built asset already owned
• Great, friendly, competent staff
• Close to the majority of parents in Richmond (not miles away in another Borough) especially if/when Warren Park no longer used
• Proximity to the Croft Centre for liaison with other short breaks
• Already Good OFSTED rating (and improving)
• Relationships with children and parents already in place
• No disruption to service for these families
• Potential for increased capacity/use by more families/children
• The whole provision costs less than keeping one of the children it supports in care for a year
It would be such a waste for Croft Cottage to stand empty or not be used as intended. Every effort should be made to keep it running as an overnight respite facility. With the contract due to end on 23 April we need to act fast!
We the undersigned ask Achieving For Children, and in particular Robert Henderson, the new Director Of Children’s Services, to urgently reconsider the decision not to increase the level of funding available in Enhanceable’s contract and keep the service running seamlessly going forward.
1. “Overnight Short Break Care for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)” by Rob Henderson to the Adults & Children's Committee in Kingston on 29 September 2016
2. “Respite Provision for Children with Disabilities” by Rob Henderson to the Adults & Children's Committee in Kingston on 11 November 2016
in which the case for an expensive new in-house facility at Moor Lane in Chessington is proposed in favour of renewing Kingston’s existing Action For Children at Warren Park (on Kingston Hill)
3. "Future State - Overnight Respite Care & Residential Special School Provision in Kingston & Richmond”
Proposal to build new facilities at Moor Lane
(added 23 Feb 2017)
4. “Respite Provision for Children with Disabilities” by Rob Henderson to the Adults & Children's Committee in Kingston on 31 January 2017
The capacity of the proposed new build has now shrunk to 8 beds
5. Design proposal for Moor Lane facility from Adults & Children's Committee meeting in Kingston on 31 January 2017
It's looking pretty crowded on the floor plan...
6. Kingston Adults & Children Committee Meetings general page
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