Local carers struggle in wake of Grange closure news

Sid and Helen GrimesSid and Helen Grimes blog for SDN on the need for alternative daycare provision in Shropshire

In 1980, when our 18 year-old son, Tony, was on a 48-hour pass from the RAF, he was involved in a serious road traffic accident in Brandon, Suffolk, in which our 22 year-old son was killed. Tony was very badly injured, including serious head injuries – in fact they did not expect him to survive – and since then has been restricted to a wheelchair and needed 24-hour care. He has also suffered from epilepsy since the accident.

After caring for Tony for 18 years, our then GP suggested we should put Tony in a home for respite, and Social Services put him into a home in Colchester where he eventually stayed for a year, and then for another year in a home in Liverpool – Tony was not at all happy in either home, and we had serious reservations about the treatment he was receiving. After Tony spent 3 months in hospital after breaking his hip, we had Tony home. Altogether, we cared for our son for 27 years.

In 2000 we moved from East Anglia to Shropshire, first to Treflach and then to Oswestry itself, partly to be nearer our daughter, who lives near Wrexham. The difference in help we received from social workers in Shropshire could not have been better – we cannot speak too highly of our social workers here. Nearly 4 years ago Social Services found Tony a bungalow being built by Sanctuary Housing in Oswestry, and Tony is really happy there. We had to pay nearly £6000 to furnish and carpet the bungalow before he moved in and we are now trying to raise funds to have a doorway moved to make it more wheelchair friendly (architects ought to have to spend a week in wheelchairs etc. themselves before they are allowed to design property for the disabled!)

Tony is on the Direct Payment scheme, which we administer on his behalf. We employ the carers directly, to cover Tony’s care for the whole week, with the help of Sally’s Payroll (Sally’s Payroll Service Limited, 11 Meole Walk, Meole Village, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY3 9EU) for which Social Services pay £47 a month to sort out our employer’s responsibilities like National Insurance and Income Tax, and we find that the system works really well. The Penderels Trust (Shropshire Office: Penderels Trust, Unit 1 Pimley Barns, Pimley Manor, Sundorne Road, Shrewsbury, SY4 4SD, Tel: 01743 350174, Email: shropshire@penderelstrust.org.uk) help us interview new carers, and Social Services pay Employers’ Liability Insurance for us (although we pay an extra £60 a year to cover us for legal assistance if needed). Every three months our accounts are checked by Social Services – they have always been in excellent order – and the Independent Living Fund also check the accounts every 2 years. Helen pays the cheques needed, and keeps meticulous records of everything. A bonus for council tax payers is that the Direct Payment scheme costs Social Services less than using an agency for carers.

We have been really lucky with the carers, and they could not be better; they keep the bungalow spotless, Tony is always clean and smart, they cook his meals and they take him out, generally every day, for which we pay the expenses. We also pay for a private physio once a week to help him. Tony only really has the use of his right arm, but before the accident was a very active person, interested in all sorts of things, including motor bikes and mechanics. Now he loves the company of other people and talking, and needs the stimulation of interacting with other people, but his condition means that he has no inhibitions and poor concentration, which can make social activities difficult!

Several years ago, our social worker found Tony a place at the Grange Day Care Centre for two days a week. Tony’s carer goes with him, and, using his bus pass to pay half the cost of the wheel-chair suitable taxi, we pay £65 a week in transport. Tony has tried other day care centres, but not got on well, mostly because his lack of inhibition means that he does not always behave appropriately and, for instance, will call out the answers straight away in a quiz regardless of whether it’s his turn or not. They are not always wheel-chair friendly either. However, The Grange seems to cope well with Tony and he loves going there, so we were distraught when it was announced that it was going to close.

Being fighters, we looked everywhere to find an alternative, preferably in Oswestry, which seems to have very few day care centres (they all seem to be based in Shrewsbury). Our daughter even spent some time looking on the internet, but without success and we have contacted David Cameron and Shire Hall, also without success. Someone suggested that we visit the new church in Cabin Lane, Oswestry, which also has a community centre, and the staff there were very helpful. They have a lovely room upstairs, with wheel-chair accessible lift, disabled WCs on both floors, a café and they are making a garden suitable for wheelchairs. They also have a large wall TV suitable for showing films, and their hire charges are very reasonable. We estimate that, with two paid carers, volunteers and users bringing their own carers where they need to, we could run a day centre there for two days a week – possibly Mondays & Fridays – for less than half the cost that other day centres charge. We would need to have 6 – 10 users for each session, and sessions would run from 9.30 am to 3 pm, with a sandwich lunch. We would have to approach funding charities for help with the equipment needed. Qube in Oswestry have also been encouraging, and we will go back to their Volunteer Centre for volunteers when we can get the project under way.

So what now?

  • We want to hear from other disabled people, or their carers, who would enjoy this sort of day centre facility
  • We want to produce a flyer for distribution to GPs surgeries etc. in the Oswestry area to get more people involved, both potential users and helpers, and need help with both the design and printing of this
  • We are both quite elderly and need the help of more active volunteers in getting this project off the ground

So if you can help with any of the above, please get in touch with the SDN Newsletter editor, Peter Staples, email newsletter@shropshire-disability.net, and they will pass on your details to us.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sid and Helen Grimes

One thought on “Local carers struggle in wake of Grange closure news

  1. Ruby

    It is so good to read about Helen and Sid’s passion to find and try to start a new venture for their Son and other people as The Grange Day Centre gets nearer to its closure. It will be really good to follow your story through and I wish you all the best with this and hope people will come forward to help you in this project. Thank you- I am sure this article will be an inspiration to others. Many thanks.

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