CAPTION: From left, Dennis Murray, and Fiona Elwin are disappointed by the decision made by IDEA but hope a petition will halt any changes. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON


Parents of children with disabilities say the service changes will be hugely stressful


By Beckie Wilson

For Masterton’s Fiona and Christopher Elwin, the thought of losing the respite care they’ve relied on for the past 14 years is a “huge, scary” prospect.

Their 23-year-old daughter suffers from multiple disabilities, which at times puts pressure on their family.

They’ve always known there was somewhere to go for help when they needed a break – with staff they know and trust.

At least until now.

IDEA Services provides relief for families and supports those with intellectual disabilities to live in their own homes and be part of their local communities.

Now IHC, the organisation that funds IDEA, is preparing to axe five per cent of its services, including home support, respite care, foster and shared care, contract board, as well as holiday and after school programmes.

IHC’s boss says other providers will take up the slack, meaning the services will continue, but parents of affected children say any disruption is hugely stressful for some of our community’s most vulnerable members.

That’s sparked a petition calling for a stop to the cuts, and for a rethink on funding for the services in question.

Mrs Elwin, one of several parents who attended a Monday night rally, said it was “appalling” they were not notified prior to the decision being made, adding that she first heard about the change via the media.

She said the anger the parents felt was channelled through the petition.

Mrs Elwin said her daughter saw the staff as family, and to have this disruption in her life would be “extremely stressful”.

“To lose the surety of the respite facility and the staff you get to know is a huge, scary thing to happen.

“[The children] are extremely vulnerable and they don’t have a voice, and we are that.

“This is our everyday life, we need to make it clear to the country and the service exactly the impact.”

IHC chief executive Ralph Jones said that “limited funding” was the reason for cutting the services, with the withdrawal of smaller services allowing IHC to focus on residential and day services.

Dennis and Julie Murray are the carers of their 19-year-old granddaughter Summer, who has autism.

Mr Murray said they had been using the respite care facility for the past nine years.

They use it for relief in weekends, but the changes will affect Summer’s day-to-day routine more, he said.

Thomas Webster, who works for union E tu, said the families were angry.

“[The families] have real concerns for the wellbeing of their children under a potentially new provider, given the relationships of enormous trust, confidence and respect they have with their current care givers,” he said.

“To IDEA Services CEO, Ralph Jones, we say this: put this on hold, get the parties together and discuss a solution which will maintain the status quo.”

He hopes to receive thousands of signatures locally and nationally, and will then present it to Prime Minister Bill English.

IHC New Zealand general manager Gina Rogers said she did not expect anyone to have their services interrupted, and said those would have the choice to move to a quality, trusted provider.

“We know that while this affects only a small number of families – these services are vital to them.

“We will support people to transition over to another provider that works for them.

A small number of staff may also be affected, she said.

Ministry of Health group manager of disability support services Toni Atkinson said the ministry would be working with IDEA Services to limit any gaps between the end of one service and the beginning of another.

There has been no reduction or cut in funding to IDEA Services, she said.