`Gone time' to reopen adult day centres, trusts told by MLAs
HEALTH and social care trusts have been warned it is "gone time" for them to fully re-open adult day care facilities, after being accused of `shamefully dragging their feet'.
Members of Stormont Health Committee have intervened on behalf of carers who sounded the alarm on the toll the reduced services are taking on them and their adult children.
The Public Health Agency said day centres are "currently following the UK-wide guidance" and it is developing "a service remobilising pathway" for them, respite care and transportation.
Trusts have told parents they are waiting for "updated guidance regarding the distancing measures, which is expected soon".
However, carers told The Irish News they have "heard that before" and been repeatedly let down and, "despite (doing) everything that was asked of us over and over again... it just hasn't been reciprocated".
Sinn Féin committee chair Colm Gildernew accused the department and "many trusts (of) continuing to shamefully drag their feet when it comes to supporting those who use day centres and respite services".
"This is having a negative impact on people and families who rely on these services.
"People want to see day centres and respite services fully resuming and a concrete plan from the Department of Health on how they can remain open over the winter."
Alliance assembly member Paula Bradshaw said she has "received many emails from distraught carers throughout the pandemic about this very issue (where) their stress, frustration and exhaustion is palpable."
"I appreciate the precautions the trusts are taking in terms of protecting the vulnerable, however, I am concerned the longer these reduced hours/days continue, the worse the overall health impact for those who use them.
"By now, with so much more knowledge of how the virus spread and the infection and hygiene control measures that have been introduced across health and social care setting, it has gone time the centres are fully opened and the users, and their carers, are able to avail of the service they deserve."
SDLP health spokesperson Colin McGrath said he is contacting Health Minister Robin Swann to ask him "to work with our health trusts to ensure that they are following the latest guidance in relation to supporting carers and people with disabilities".
Mr McGrath restrictions imposed during lockdown "were necessary to protect the public (but) we must also now look at resuming greater day centre and respite support in line with the lifting of other restrictions."
He said within his own constituency he has seen the "mental toll the months of facilities being closed has taken on both carers and their children".
Mr McGrath said day centres are in a "difficult situation", with staff who "just want to do what's best for the people they care for and have done amazing work throughout the pandemic".
But he said: "We need to ensure people are not being left behind or failed by having stricter rules than necessary in place."