UNTIL Scope’s Short Breaks centre opened the families of disabled children faced tough choices.
The centre in Shakers Lane, Bury St Edmunds, celebrated its 40th birthday on Tuesday and the charity’s head of community services Michael Sheppard said: “Forty years ago a lot of these families weren’t getting the support they needed. It was often the case that they were left to manage on their own or felt they couldn’t manage and the child ended up in care.
“Children would be isolated at home or would go into long stay hospitals. Forty years ago parents were often told they would have to give the child up.”
Scope is best known for its work with cerebral palsy but the centre, nicknamed ‘Shakers’ by the youngsters, offers respite care for all disabled children aged between seven and 18. It takes them from an area stretching from South Norfolk to north Essex, and manager Helen Rose said they can stay for a day, overnight or for holidays, giving parents and siblings time to themselves.
Sara Witte and her husband Alan, from Rougham, know how important that is because their daughter Sharna, 17, was born with severe learning disability, epilepsy, right side weakness and cataracts. She has been going to Shakers for 10 years and Sara admits if it had not been for that her daughter might have had to go to a home. Sharna is demanding, never sleeps all night and wants everything to happen instantly.
“When she started here, I was relieved I was going to get some help,” she said. “It meant I could spend time with her twin, Stefan, because he felt all the attention was going on her. He didn’t understand then.”
Alan was away as a continental lorry driver and would take over looking after Sharna at weekends, but that meant the couple had little time together.
“It’s been brilliant for us,” Sara said. “Sharna loves it here. They take them out and she’s socialising and meeting with her friends.”