Sheffield families hit by ‘poor services’

Ben Prescott, seven, with mum Helen Prescott, pictured at their home in Sheffield.
Ben Prescott, seven, with mum Helen Prescott, pictured at their home in Sheffield.
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More than a third of Sheffield families with disabled children are struggling to cope, according to a report.

Sheffield Parent Carer Forum’s latest State of Sheffield report blames underperforming services and high levels of isolation for their difficulties.

The report, which highlights the issues families with disabled youngsters are facing, calls for Sheffield Council to improve provisions.

The report claims services for disabled children in Sheffield have been blighted by long waiting times, poor communication and a lack of capacity, leading to an ‘overwhelmingly negative’ response from parents.

Transition from child to adult services was slammed as a ‘drawn-out, faceless and fragmented process punctuated by long delays’, while some services were found to not have enough capacity.

Eva Juusola, from the forum, said: “There’s an issue with several services that operate for families with children with disabilities.

“For years, parents have been saying speech and language therapy and mental health services haven’t got enough capacity.

“Sheffield’s speech and language workforce is about 40 per cent smaller than the national average.

“More than half of the parents in our study said their child had problems with sleeping, yet there is no specialist sleep support service in Sheffield.”

Short breaks respite services were hailed as a ‘lifeline’ by parents – but the forum is worried the ‘lifeline’ could be scaled back.

Mum Helen Prescott, aged 45, from Fulwood, says they are the difference between existing and having a life.

Her son Ben, aged 11, has severe learning difficulties and attends a special school.

She said: “Short breaks are an absolute lifeline.

“They give parents the chance to recharge, but also allows the child to have independence, something which is not always very easy.

“If they are cut, it’s a short-sighted, economical move.”

The council has been drawing up proposals for the future of its services which were due to be discussed at a meeting today.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for families, said: “We have been consulting with parents and carers on short breaks and respite care services.

“We are holding further meetings and focus groups to report back to parents and carers on the findings so far, to inform them of our proposals for the future and to hear their views.

“Our proposals reflect the views we heard during the initial consultation about our services and address the budget savings needed.

“The proposals will mean changes to some services, but we are continuing consultation to ensure the changes reflect needs in the most cost-effective ways.”

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