MORE than 500 people have signed a petition urging Fife Council to think again over its plans to close a children’s respite centre in Cupar.
It was announced last month that the Eden Park residential unit will be closing to save the council money — and now the campaign to rescue the centre is in full swing.
An online petition opposing the decision had collected 450 signatures in under two weeks when the Fife Herald went to press yesterday (Thursday), with scores more putting their name to paper copies.
Cupar parent Peter Jackson, who set up the petition with wife Kirsty, said there had been an “overwhelming” response to the campaign.
He told the Fife Herald: “We really are very grateful to all who have shown their support.
“We now have hard copies of the petition which are dotted around Cupar — in Tesco, the post office, pharmacies and so on.
“Hopefully we will also do a leaflet drop to houses in the Eden Park area.”
Mr Jackson, whose autistic son uses the centre, added: “We believe that we can’t afford to lose such a valuable asset.
“We would certainly be interested in hearing what alternative Fife Council could propose.
“It is our belief that Eden Park is already the best that they could possibly offer.
“Anything else would be a degradation to the service in terms of care and support, which would be devastating to the children and families who use Eden Park.”
Comments on the online petition have blasted Fife Council’s decision as “shocking”, “an utter disgrace”, “short-sighted” and “a backward step”.
Andrew Dykes of Tayport wrote: “Caring for a child with special needs is incredibly stressful for the parents and siblings.
“Families need the type of support that Eden Park supplies.
“I do not understand how in the era of ‘getting it right for every child’ this service can be withdrawn.”
Newburgh resident Sally de Ferranti added: “My son received respite at Eden Park for several years before moving to adult services.
“Without it, I would not have got a break at night at all.
“I will be very sorry to see it go.
“If Fife Council closes this facility, then clearly they have little understanding or appreciation of the work done by the parents of special needs children.”
Dr Andrew Mackay, a Glasgow-based doctor who worked at Eden Park while studying medicine, said: “I have seen the enormous benefit that the respite offers to children, families and staff alike.
“It is foolish to think that such ‘respite care’ can be provided in the children’s homes where family will still be on hand and not get the break that they need while knowing their child is being cared for in a safe environment.”
Responding to news of the petition, Fife Council’s social work service manager Dave Wright said: “We are aware of the petition, but our priority is still to carefully examine the needs of the 12 young people and families who use this provision and are directly affected by the service.
“We have spoken to and written to parents and will be visiting them in the next few weeks to discuss their individual needs and the potential options for respite care.
“We are reviewing the provision of respite care across Fife and this part of the process will ensure we can continue to meet the needs of this group of people.
“We have explained to parents that for the time being the service will continue at Eden Park — the review will take place over the summer and we are totally committed to meeting the needs of their children both now and in the future.
“They will not be left without an appropriate service.”
The petition can be viewed and signed by following the shortlink tinyurl.com/763x783 or by clicking the link on the Fife Herald’s Facebook page.