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FERGUS EWING: Respite service is a real lifeline for many Highland families

By Fergus Ewing

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Respite care has been paused at The Orchard.
Respite care has been paused at The Orchard.

Within the heart of our community lies a haven of care and respite: The Orchard.

On the NHS Highland website it’s formally described as a residential and respite unit, a collaborative effort managed by the social services department of Highland Council in conjunction with NHS input. But for the families who depend on it, it’s so much more – it’s a lifeline.

The Orchard extends a lifeline to families navigating the challenges of caring for children and adolescents with profound learning disabilities. As the summer break stretches ahead, it becomes a particularly demanding period for all families across the board. Yet for parents of children with complex disabilities, this season carries heightened stress and anxiety, often spilling over onto the family unit.

To these families, the Orchard offers a high-calibre short break service, providing essential relief. When school doors close for the holidays The Orchard’s doors swing open, ushering in a place of respite for children and young people grappling with severe and intricate disabilities.

While opinions may differ, the truth remains: the long summer break places immense strain on families. However, for those relying on The Orchard, its temporary closure has cast a shadow of concern. Countless constituents have reached out to voice their worries about the halt in respite facilities. The Highland Council, upon consultation, has cited a medley of challenges contributing to this pause, chiefly the ongoing national issue of staffing shortages across all care sectors.

Fergus Ewing.
Fergus Ewing.

Yet a silver lining gleams on the horizon. Council representatives assure us that they’re diligently working towards a resumption date for this vital service, pledging to keep us informed of their progress.

As the curtain draws on the summer break, children are set to return to school, their spirits hopefully renewed and brimming with energy for the year ahead. But for some, these past weeks have proven trying as they’ve strived to offer round-the-clock care for their disabled children while also tending to the needs of their other youngsters.

Respite short breaks such as those offered by The Orchard extend an array of benefits to children and caregivers. Children find joy and camaraderie in a secure environment, bolstered by unwavering support. Caregivers and siblings experience a much-needed opportunity to unwind and cherish quality moments with loved ones.

I’m sure many are anticipating the imminent reopening of The Orchard, but should there be any constituents affected by this matter or keen to be kept updated please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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