Saturday, 29 March 2014

Smiles, pride, tears and anger

Yesterday I visited Shrewsbury Shared Care. This is an Action for Children project which provides short term residential care for disabled children and young people. This is home for the young people during their short stays. Each room is specially prepared for the individual needs and preferences of the young person who will be staying in it and the whole environment is prepared every day for those who willbe living there.
The staff welcomed us warmly and as they spoke it was very clear that they knew the children well and were highly professional. Before we left the children arrived and this small group of chidren with special needs were welcomed home, each in the way appropriate to them so that they felt secure and safe.
The garden is designed in such a way that those who need space to be on their own, focusing on just one thing, can do so. It is full of colour and interest with play areas and quiet spaces.
The sensory room was prepared and was a place where the children could find relaxation.
All these things made me proud that the Methodist Church is associatedwith Action for Children and the wonderful work it does here, in so many other places and in the community; working for as long as it takes to help and support children.
I smiled when the children smiled. They smiled and laughed because they were secure. They smiled because they had come to their home from home.

But I also found myself near to tears and deeply angry.
We were told that, at 18 the children would be transferred to adult care services. For these children it is extremely important that this transition is handled carefully and a few years ago the process would begin a year or 18 months before their 18th birthday. Gradually they came to know the people and the places that would provide their adult care and so the transition worked well.
Now it is different. It is not that the needs of the young people have changed. The funding has. 'Austerity' has meant that there have been staff cuts and so transition is now quick and young people feel insecure and their families uncertain of the future as the eighteenth birthday approaches.
As I was told about the young lady who neared her 18th birthday not knowing what would be provided for her nex She was told at short notice that she was to go for a week-end to a safe but strange and unfamiliar new place with caring but unknown people to care for her. I was close to tears. And as the conversation continued and I heard more about the way in which this very vulnerable group of people are the victims of 'cuts' I was angry.

Why is it that it is the most needy and vulnerable who are affected most often?
This is wrong.

'They who... push the afflicted out of the way' were condemned by the prophet Amos for failing to recognise the requirements of a loving and just God.(Amos 2:7).
It was not right then and it is not right now.

Thank God for the work of Action for Children.

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