Cathy Read with her daughter Jessica who soon will no longer be able to use the Elouera respite house at Charnwood. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra families say the ACT government chose to close a north Canberra respite centre for disabled adults without speaking to families who use the service.
The Elouera respite house will close in November, after the government announced this month that it was ''consolidating'' respite services before next year's switch to the disability insurance scheme.
Families are calling on the government not to shut the six-bed centre, which provides respite for adults with an intellectual disability.
One parent called the move an ''absolute disgrace'', while other families said they did not know the centre was closing until a day after the government made an announcement to media.
The government is shifting its other respite services to the non-government sector from March.
It says it will close Elouera because it is under-used.
A spokesman for Disability Minister Joy Burch said the government had informed 148 families of the changes to respite services and that alternative care options were available.
But Palmerston resident Cathy Read said there had been ''no consultation, no nothing'' and six weeks was not long enough for adults with high needs to change to the ACT's other six-bed adult respite service in Hughes. Ms Read's 26-year-old daughter Jessica requires round-the-clock care.
The family has been using the Elouera respite service for about one week every two months for the past seven years.
''Sometimes it's for my sanity and for her to have a break, too,'' Ms Read said. ''I can have a holiday or sometimes just a weekend.''
Ms Read said a government proposal to have host families provide respite for a short period of time in their homes would not be suitable for Jessica.
''Hughes has six beds as well but there are clients there already,'' she said. ''It's not good enough.
''They need transition - you can't just move them from one place to another.''
Margaret Parsons said Elouera ''probably saved our lives'' and her marriage to her husband Paul.
Her 29-year-old son Jason has Down Syndrome and autism.
Elouera was the only place he felt safe enough to stay when he suffered a breakdown two years ago.
Mrs Parsons said the problem was not that Elouera was under-used but rather the centre often had only two carers to look after clients.
''You can't have six high-needs people in there when you have only two people to look after them,'' she said.
''That's why the numbers are down.
''The powers that be didn't speak to the carers or parents … it's an absolute disgrace.
''They've just looked at the book, seen the numbers and said they'll shut it down.''
Daisy Morris, whose son Rophin uses the service, said there was ''no point'' shutting the centre and expecting families to find ''a stop-gap'' until the disability scheme began next year.
Ms Burch's spokesman said 26 families had visited Elouera on a casual basis this year and ''the impact for individuals will be discussed with families as we determine the transition program for service users''.
The spokesman said the government was confident all Elouera clients could be accommodated at Hughes Respite.
He said the government's decision was ''based on the reducing of casual respite utilisation rates … and on the requirement to position services in the ACT for the launch of the national disability insurance scheme''.
''We recognise that this is a difficult time for some families, however every reasonable effort will be made to support families individually.''