Stop the cuts to The Bush Residential Unit for disabled children

Stop the cuts to The Bush Residential Unit for disabled children

Author: Rita Lynch


The  Bush Residential Unit in Hengrove is an overnight short break facility for disabled children. My son, Jimmy,(12 years old)  has been using this service for the last 3 years. Jimmy is severely autistic and epileptic. The Bush is a respite service for parents of disabled children. Children can use the Bush until they are 18.  

Jimmy attends the Bush one night a week. On that night the staff take him swimming with 3 other boys who are the same age. He stays overnight and is taken to school the following morning.Jimmy loves going to the Bush and looks forward to his stay there. It is consistent service, reliable, safe and has become an important part of Jimmys education. The Bush has a sensory room, computer facilities, a large garden with a trampoline swings and  bicycles. He has his own room for the night. The staff are highly trained and professional and can attend to his physical, social and emotional needs. They are trained to administer his medicine should he have a seizure. I know he is completlely safe when he stays there. The staff at the Bush are trained and equipped to deal with a high level of mental and physical disabilities. They are trained to deal with children with very challenging behaviours. For some of these children there is no other facility or service that can handle them. At the meeting with the Council representative some parents said that without the Bush they would lose their children to full time residential care. 

The Council are saying they are proposing alternatives not cuts

These are:( my comments on these are in italics)

1.Foster based short breaks including ‘contract carers’

foster care care not acceptable because:

Autistic children like Jimmy need a high and constant level of routine. One of their biggest challenges is in dealing with change and new people and new situations.The Bush as an institution caters for 10 children every night , this is essential for Jimmy to learn to socialise, mix and communicate with other peers, he is unable to form friendships by himself. The Bush as an institution is completely safe there is an intercom system, the staff are highly trained professionals, unlike random foster families ….who are not specifically trained , probably inconsistent . There are major safety issues for these children around appropriate behaviour towards them, anyone can walk into somebody elses’ home and family and these children are too vulnerable,and are not able to verbally explain what is happening to them. Foster families would not be able to cope,.with children with challenging behaviour issues. There is no comparison to the level of safety, experience, training and awareness that the staff have at the Bush.

Farming our children out to foster families who are not sufficiently trained to deal with the extent of the medical conditions of these children is not an alternative and all the parents at the Bush would not consider fostering as a viable option.

At the Bush we know our children are safe. 

Fostering has less risk of reputational damage as the local authority isn’t as directly tied  to the provision, therefore their accountability to what may happen to the child is very much diminished

2.More Direct Payments ( which people will be able to spend on other activities and expenses, not just personal assistants)

Giving us a few extra pounds to spend a week does not compare with the facility of the Bush. At the moment I am able to employ someone to babysit for 4 hours a week , with direct payments you become “the employer” , there is a vast amount of paper work, paying taxes and bureaucracy,this is not respite for the parents and further isolates us and our children. You have to actively find someone you trust to look after your child , this is not easy to do with a child that has physical and mental issues it is even harder, many people who would provide this service are frightened by the enormity of the responsibility, they are not trained at all. Many families who could get direct payments cannot find the right person so don’t often claim. 

3. Community care

What is this meant to mean?

4. Residential holidays

Not a viable  option . I would not send Jimmy on holiday away from me with people he hardly knows, if the holidays were done through the Bush with Bush staff then it would be a service I would access.

5. Targeted services  ( after school, weekend and holiday activities and groups, befrienders)

Recently there has been one day a week after school club at Jimmy’s school, funding for this is incredibly hard for the school to get in their struggles to get after school activities they ask parents if they could donate money, this year there are no holiday clubs at Jimmy’s school because they haven’t got funding. 

I’m not sure what they mean by ” weekend and holiday activities and groups” never been offered any thing like this, during holidays adventure playgrounds allocate the first hour of the morning purely for disabled children, how is this an alternative to the Bush….what exactly are befrienders? 

Parents of disabled children do not lightly send their children away without them

 The Council  are not thinking of the needs of the families and children of the Bush. All the parents of the children at the Bush are upset and outraged at the Council’s proposals to axe the beds at the Bush.

Without the Bush our lives would deteriorate. The other proposals the Council are coming up with instead of the Bush are not viable or practical.

The Councils proposal is purely to save money. The Mayor will make the ultimate decision

I am frightened for my sons future. If the Council want to axe essential services from the most vulnerable group of people in society then it does not bode well for the future.

All the other profesionals who would normally help the parents of these disabled children have been warned not to get involved, the teachers at school, the social workers and the staff themselves at the Bush. 

The council are saying that the beds at the Bush are not being used every night

Staff at the Bush say the beds are always booked and get cancelled by parents only if  the child is ill or has another important family occasion to attend, as soon as the staff know there is a free bed they phone all the parents to offer them an extra night respite. There is a waiting list for the Bush.

The Council did their survey disregarding the following:

children with extreme learning behaviour sometimes need one to one staff or more and sometimes staff have to cancel other children because of the greater need of other children for their own and other children’s safety

The council analysed the statistics of the Bush when building work had just been done and with the upheavel it took some children a while to come back to the Bush and the Bush to come back to normal. Unison the union involved with staff at the Bush have complained about this.

The council survey did not take into account that one of the services the Bush provides is that it takes on very extreme children

The Bush used to have a day care centre service for disabled adults this was axed by the government about 9 years ago and was not replaced by anything else.

May the first was the first time that we heard about the council proposal to take away the 5 beds.

, yet the consultation will finish on the 30th of June, this is hardly giving us much time at all to fight for the Bush, taking into account that we are full time carers for our children. The council had the draft proposal since January 2014 but did not even start consulting us till the 1 may. 

The council state that ” the proportion of children who are disabled is increasing- so we need to make the money go further”

if there are more disabled children why get rid of somewhere that is highly needed and praised and working really well like the Bush.

At the moment 47 children use the Bush

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