Mum's Heartfelt Plea to Save Ealing Respite Home
Heller House under threat of closure
Below Lyn Porter tells us what Heller House means for her family:
Rhys, is seventeen years old. We have frequently been told that he is the child with the most complex needs at his school. Considering he attends a special school for children with SLD (severe learning difficulties) that is some achievement! For five years he attended the Log Cabin in Northfields for his respite, but when he turned sixteen, the Log Cabin ceased for him.
As Rhys has Severe Global Developmental Delay and Very Challenging Behaviour, the social worker said that there wasn’t a replacement. This in itself is shocking! Children have a wonderful experience at Log Cabin until they are sixteen years old and it all stops suddenly. Having heard about Heller House, my husband and I made enquiries.
I was told in August 2014 that Rhys had been accepted, but it was only last January, when he was sixteen, that the space became available. So much for the lack of demand! He had a transition period and as we realised he enjoyed it so much, we increased the visits. He now goes there once a week.
My husband and I were naturally nervous about our son staying overnight at first, however, we needn’t have worried. Rhys LOVES it there! Absolutely adores it! Although Rhys can’t speak, he can sign and use Makaton and expresses his love of Heller House. He enjoys going there because of the amazing staff who are all dedicated and caring people. He loves his room and the spacious garden there. He loves the food he eats there and the activities in which he participates. We know all this because he will sign on a daily basis that he wants to go. We ask if he likes it a little bit or a big bit at Heller House and he signs that he likes it a ‘big’ bit there.
My husband and I both work full-time and Rhys is an only child, although as I work as a teacher I have frequently said that a class of thirty-two children can be easier to deal with than my son! Respite is important for us as a family. It not only gives my husband and I some time to recharge our batteries but in our case, even more importantly, it gives Rhys respite from us. It is the only time (other than when he is at school) that Rhys is away from us. It is his chance of some independence. He meets new people and goes to new places. He has new experiences that help him develop appropriate behaviour in social settings. This all happens with the security of experienced and kind staff who know Rhys well and understand him and his needs.
My son has only been going to Heller House for a year. I cannot imagine how he will feel when he realises that he will have to stop going there. He is seventeen years old. Going for respite is his time to show us that he is a ‘grown-up’ and it is his chance to have some ‘normality’ in his life. Most seventeen year olds would be going out with friends and staying at friends’ houses. This is his time for being a ‘teenager’.
Ealing must not lose its respite at Heller House. By all means redevelop it and make it a newer, better building but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not let us lose this valuable resource. We don’t know who in the future will need it; it could be your child, grandchild, niece, nephew. But we must have this respite in Ealing for the children of the future. Sending the most vulnerable of children out to other boroughs is not feasible and as an Ealing resident it must not happen!
Please sign the Change.org petition for Ealing to accept the third option and redevelop Heller House.
4th February 2016