The proposed closure of No.1 Ledbury Road has featured heavily in these pages, and my in-tray has been filled with correspondence from local people who are concerned at the situation. Only last week the centre was temporarily closed at no notice due to staff illness, causing great distress to those it serves.
For those readers not familiar with No.1, it is a specialist resource unit that provides respite care for young people with complex health needs and disabilities.
As well as providing vital support for the children concerned, No.1 throws a lifeline to their parents and carers, allowing them to rest and spend time with other loved ones. I have had the honour of being Patron to the Friends of the centre, where many children have formed long lasting and close friendships over many years.
Affected parents and children, as well as the wider community, have been understandably distraught to learn that the centre is set to close. What no-one has been able to explain to me is exactly why it has to do so.
Yes, the Wye Valley Trust, which has historically provided the service, is under pressure to cut costs, as is the local Clinical Commissioning Group. Yes, it is important, as the Council maintains, to keep local needs for respite care under review. And yes, there may be much more that can be done to use No.1 in an effective and financially viable way.
But it is not clear that there has been much if any strategic discussion between the three organisations about No.1, let alone a creative effort to find common solutions.
And I am far from convinced that the three have shown that properly trained new foster carers can be sustainably recruited to a level where they could replace the current respite care being offered at No.1.
No.1 is run by well-trained staff, who really understand the children and their needs. It would be tragic if their skills were to be lost.
And as the recent Council meeting showed, there is deep cross-party support for its continuation.
As I understand it, there is a statutory right on the Council to provide respite care, and plans must be in place to call on cover staff where necessary. But the Council need to be met half-way by the Trust and the CCG to make it all work.
Let’s make this happen. The children and families of No.1 deserve much better than this.