Alarm bells have been sounded over the severe lack of respite care for teenagers and children in the Dungannon District.
It has been revealed that disabled teenagers have been forced into nursing homes catering for elderly patients because of the lack of appropriate facilities in the local district.
Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan, who has been campaigning for more investment in local respite services, has warned of the significant risk of harm.
She said that exhausted local parents were injuring themselves and experiencing severe mental strain because of the lack of respite services for their children.
“The clear message that is being communicated to me by carers from across South Tyrone is that adults with very challenging behaviour should not mix with adults with complex health needs because of the significant risk of harm, and that there needs to be more locally available bed-based respite and short breaks”, she said.
“That explains the demand from my community for more investment in age-appropriate bed-based respite provision. I spoke to one mother, whose child is 18 years old and was going into respite in a nursing home with people who are much older and whose ages range from 60 to 70-plus. That really is inconceivable.”
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative painted a grim picture of the predicament faced by local families with a disabled child or young adult.
Quoting research conducted by, among others, Dungannon’s Sperrin View School, she said: “The picture of family life that emerged from the research was very grim indeed.
“Some 62% of parents are caring for their young people with severe learning difficulties for upwards of 70 hours per week, and care needs that are associated with severe learning disabilities clearly outweigh the approximate average 50 hours per weeks that has been suggested by Care NI.
“Overall, 77% of parent carers state that their caring responsibilities have had an impact on their health, with one quarter of that number stating that depression, stress and anxiety are now an integral part of life.
“Social isolation is also a common theme for families with a severely learning-disabled member.
“This is compounded when a family includes two or more children with severe learning disabilities. I dealt with a local family who have two such children at home and find it extremely difficult to coordinate their respite.”
In response to a debate raised by Ms McGahan at the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Minister for Health said the Southern Trust was actively involved in the development of short-breaks provision as part of Transforming Your Care.