Acorn House ‘essential’ says McAlpine

MSP Joan McAlpine has told decision makers that Acorn House is essential for families across Dumfries and Galloway.

In a letter to the chief executives of the health board and the council – as well as members of the Integrated Joint Board – the MSP also urged for any independent review to involve parents.

And she echoed parents’ call for the board to ensure Acorn House is fully operational when it is assessed by the reviewer – as the recent uncertainty has mean it was not running to full capacity.

The SNP MSP says it is unacceptable that if Acorn House were to close, the only residential services available for families would be outwith the region.

She agreed with parents that the proposal to use Self Directed Support to provide community respite, sometimes at home, was also unsuitable for many families who use Acorn House.

The letter comes on the back of a meeting with parents and health secretary Shona Robison last week.  Ms McAlpine has promised to keep the health secretary updated.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“Without pre-empting the outcome of the independent review I thought it was important to let decision makers know I am persuaded Acorn House is absolutely essential. 

“Without it, the only alternatives are Self Directed Support or a respite residential place outwith the region. 

“While Self Directed Support is excellent and appropriate for many families, the legislation which established it is very clear that it is about promoting choice. 

“These families have told me that Self Directed Support means respite care at home, or in the community, with no choice of an alternative.  That is often unsuitable for their children who have very complex needs, including medical needs. And respite at home doesn’t give these highly pressurised family carers the break they need – particularly when they have other children.

“There have been previous reports from the IJB that several “independent” experts have already been approached to conduct the new review. If that is the case, it breaches the promise made to involve the parents in choosing the independent expert. 

“I have asked for clarity on this – and for the IJB to ensure parents are involved.”

The row over Acorn House has been on-going since a document was leaked last year, suggesting that the health board were considering closing the facility.

Ms McAlpine understands from discussions with officials that the model at Acorn House is unusual in that the NHS pick up the largest part of the bill, when in other parts of Scotland it is the council’s social work department which takes on the biggest responsibility.

The MSP is concerned that this financial imbalance more than anything else drove the botched plan to close it. 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“If it is the case that financial pressures are behind the decision to consider closer, surely the way forward is for a sensible discussion between the council and the NHS to find a more equitable funding solution?

“Closure of the facility would almost certainly result in greatly increased costs falling on the council’s social services budget, so it seems sensible for them to consider making a larger contribution to prevent that happening.”