ISSUE: Chiswick Child and Family Centre                                

Another Valuable Local Facility under Threat Closure 

This article is by Andy Rooney - a parent of a child who has benefited from the facility.

Hot on the heels of the closure plans for Chiswick Lodge come Hounslow's plans to close Chiswick Child and Family Centre. This is a daycare centre (one of four in Hounslow) for pre-school children with special needs - needs arising both from disability and also from family circumstances (children on the at-risk register). It provides all-day care, typically for two days a week.

Physically disabled children can receive integrated care there, as physiotherapists, speech and occupational therapists visit children at the Centre and the Centre's staff work with the kids on programmes designed by the therapists. Children whose parents are seriously ill can attend, giving the parents time for recovery or therapy (e.g. dialysis, chemotherapy).

Children whose families are struggling to cope get a couple of days in a low-stress environment while the parents (often single parents) get a break and also get support and advice from the staff at the Centre. The regular nature of the children's attendance is key to the success of the Centre.

The multidisciplinary, coordinated approach to care is a fine example of what the Government says it wants to achieve in this area - but Hounslow has other ideas. Early this year Hounslow Social Services, who run the Centre instructed the Centre to stop accepting referrals.

Not surprisingly, this has meant that numbers are falling as children move on to school.

Hounslow have now decided to use this as an excuse to close the Chiswick centre and move the remaining children to the Brentford centre, a converted Victorian house which must surely be less suitable for children, particularly the mobility-impaired, than the Chiswick site which is a 1960s school building designed for children's use.

A comparison of the inspection reports on OFSTED's web site also makes it clear that it is the more highly regarded of the two centres that has been earmarked for closure. But this should not be about Chiswick versus Brentford, both of which, along with the other two centres in Hounslow and Feltham, provide high quality care to children in need. If the proposals go ahead, all four centres will lose the all-day care that is the key to their undoubted success.

This was announced to Centre staff and parents on August 8th as a 'consultation'; however the Executive of the council has recommended the proposals to be voted on by the full council (whipped, so it won't be a vote at all) on September 5th.

Hounslow also plan to restructure the other three centres, removing the all-day care and replacing it with 'drop-in' facilities. This will make it impossible for therapists to coordinate care; it will fail to meet the needs of the seriously ill parents (dialysis on a 'drop-in' basis - I don't think so); and it will probably mean that the children on the at-risk register lose the benefits completely - a drop-in centre in Brentford is no use to a family in crisis on the Hogarth Estate for example.

My daughter, who has multiple disabilities, has attended for the past two years and has benefited enormously from the skilled care she has received. She starts at school in September so we won't be directly affected by the closure of the Centre, but we are appalled that future children will be denied the opportunity to benefit from this fine example of integrated care for the neediest children.

Decision on Centre taken off September Meeting Agenda

The case being made by Council Officers

OFSTED Reports on the two centres Note - the Brentford Centre was reinspected in July of this year and the tone of that report is apparently much more favourable than the report on OFSTED's web site.

What You Can Do:

Contact your local councillor in Hounslow Borough. To find out who your councillor is click here.

Write to the local MP: Ann Keen, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA



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