Parents battle to save The Cherries respite centre

Parents are worried about the possibility of The Cherries closing. C121354-1
Parents are worried about the possibility of The Cherries closing. C121354-1

PARENTS of children with disabilities are ‘desperately worried’ the respite care home they describe as a ‘life saver’ is under threat of closure.

The future of The Cherries respite home in Summersdale, Chichester, could be in jeopardy because of a review of services by NHS Sussex – prompting a campaign to save it.

C121354-3 Chi Cherries Respite  phot kate''Jessica Heatley with Danielle, eight.C121354-3

C121354-3 Chi Cherries Respite phot kate''Jessica Heatley with Danielle, eight.C121354-3

Jessica Heatley, from Oving, whose eight-year-old daughter Danielle attends the Cherries, said it would be extremely difficult to travel to reach another centre.

“I can’t travel for more than ten minutes in the car with her, she doesn’t like it at all,” said Jessica.

“She can’t cope with lots of people so the Cherries is ideal and she can be walked to school in the morning.

“It’s so desperately worrying, I can’t cope without knowing I have The Cherries to look forward to, and that goes for most of the parents.”

Emma Taylor and her daughter, Megan. C121354-5

Emma Taylor and her daughter, Megan. C121354-5

Jessica said that Danielle, who has autism, loves her stay in The Cherries. “It is a beautiful little home with wonderful caring staff and we would be devastated to lose it.”

She has also started an online petition to save The Cherries from closure.

Complex needs

Fordwater School caters for children with severe and complex learning difficulties, many of whom stay at the nearby respite facility.

Sue Meekings, head teacher at the Chichester school, said: “I fully support the parents’ need for respite care. Sometimes parents are dealing with complex, vulnerable and challenging children and living with some of the children can be difficult and demanding without rest and support.”

The Cherries also offers an invaluable service to Emma Taylor, and her daughter Megan, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe learning difficulties.

“I would not be able to cope without The Cherries. It is so nice to know that I will get a whole night’s sleep at least once a week,” said Emma.

“Megan is hard work and needs one-to-one care, and The Cherries provide that.

“The staff are brilliant; they help the whole family not just the disabled child.”

Family time

Many of the parents who rely on The Cherries said the facility enables them to spend time with their other children who are pleased to get parents’ attention.

Jo Smith’s son, Ashley, has been at The Cherries for 12 years.

She said: “Having Cherries gives us a break from carer and nurse duties and means we can give more time and energy to his three sisters.

“As a family, we are already under immense stress and shutting The Cherries will only increase this.”

This week, MP Andrew Tyrie called for parents to be given more information.

“The Cherries is a fantastic local resource, providing first-class respite care for a large number of families,” he said. “Many parents who rely on it are now understandably anxious about its future.

“The trust needs to give them some answers. I will be speaking to the chief executive myself to make sure the concerns of these parents are heard.”

Sussex Community NHS Trust, which runs The Cherries, also runs two other respite homes in West Sussex, Holly Lodge, in Horsham and Finches, in Burgess Hill.

Trust statement

Sussex Community NHS Trust (SCT) told the Observer:

“The reduction in demand for short breaks due to changes in eligibility – there have been no new admissions for over a year – and the fact that change has been on the agenda for some time, has had an impact on SCT’s ability to offer the quality of service we aspire to.

“Despite repeated efforts, SCT has struggled to recruit to replace staff that have left to take up other work opportunities. And the trust has had to reduce the opening days and times at Holly Lodge and Cherries, which means the children and families have less choice and flexibility.

“A temporary suspension at Holly Lodge is helping SCT put the services it provides at Cherries and Finches onto a firmer footing, which will benefit children, families and staff alike. The decision with regard to Holly Lodge does not prejudge the outcome of the children’s short breaks options review described below.

“The NHS in Sussex is looking to re-design children’s community nursing in West Sussex in line with national policies. As part of this work NHS Sussex is developing options with regard to the future of health-led short breaks in West Sussex for discussion with stakeholders. The aim shared by commissioners, providers and families alike is to ensure that children and young people who are disabled and/or have complex needs receive coordinated, high quality care and support to enable them to live ordinary lives.”

Get in touch

Anyone who would like to sign the petition in support of The Cherries can visit

What do you think about the Cherries campaign?

Do you support the parents?

We want to hear your views on this story. You can email Olivia Lerche.