Last Christmas for Cherries children

CHILDREN with complex health needs have spent their last Christmas at a much-loved respite centre.

The Cherries, in Summersdale, will be closed for good in March 2014, after a decision by Sussex Community Trust (SCT) to axe the service.

But some children are already saying goodbye to the respite centre.

Jessica Heatley, from Oving campaigned tirelessly to keep The Cherries open.

Her daughter Danielle, who used to enjoy her sleep-overs had her final stay at the centre on Thursday.

“We had a lovely Christmas party set up by the Cherries Association for all the children and families,” said Mrs Heatley.

“It was an emotional occasion. I was given some flowers by the charity.

“There’s not much I can say any more, it all falls on deaf ears.”

The Cherries has been under threat of closure for more than a year after it was considered the service was not ‘sustainable’.

Dr Katie Armstrong, clinical chief officer at NHS Coastal West Sussex CCG said ‘transition plans’ were being developed with children and families. “Residential overnight short breaks will continue to be available for all children who are eligible for them,” said Dr Armstrong.

However, Mrs Heatley said some families still don’t have feasible options for respite care.

“As of January, at least six parents still have no available respite options and they do not have anywhere to turn for help,” she said.

Chichester resident Holly Dowling Jones said the move was ‘disgraceful’.

“This is one service which should have the government’s and public’s full backing,” she said.

“Such a shame to hear this is to close.”

After a lengthy consultation period the recommendations for closure were passed by West Sussex County Council in November.

Sian Thomas, from Chichester said: “Is there no hope of a charity helping to run such a valuable resource or something? It is a terrible decision and the council must think again.”