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Fight to keep under-threat Norfolk respite centre open must go on, campaigners say, after year-long reprieve

Jessica Kibble, left, and Claire Clarke, middle, hand a petition to save Morley House Respite Unit to Penny Carpenter, chair of Children's Services Committee at County Hall.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Jessica Kibble, left, and Claire Clarke, middle, hand a petition to save Morley House Respite Unit to Penny Carpenter, chair of Children's Services Committee at County Hall. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

The fight to keep a respite home for children with complex needs open remains as important as ever, campaigners say, after it was given a one-year reprieve.

Jessica Kibble, left, and Claire Clarke hand a petition to County Hall to save Morley House Respite Unit.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYJessica Kibble, left, and Claire Clarke hand a petition to County Hall to save Morley House Respite Unit. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Morley House, in King’s Lynn, was due to stop offering short breaks to children in August, when its contract with the county council came to a close.

But on Monday, the council said the centre, which is run by charity Break, would continue providing residential short breaks and boarding facilities during the week until March next year, to provide “a longer period of transition for families”.

So far, 3,500 people have signed a petition to keep the centre open permanently, a document which was presented to Norfolk County Council’s children’s services committee on Tuesday morning by Jessica Kibble and Claire Clarke.

MORE: Year’s stay of execution for Morley House in King’s Lynn



During the meeting, Mrs Kibble asked the committee how, with a growing number of children with complex needs in west Norfolk, they could afford to consider closing the centre.

Tim Eyres, head of integrated commissioning, said analysis showed its current residential provision ran at a 67pc occupancy rate, a figure which, with the removal of beds at Morley, would rise to 80pc.

But campaigners for Save Morley House said those figures were county wide, and did not take into account the practicalities of transport for families.

One of the campaigners said: “We love our children dearly, but we are exhausted, often with siblings and other family members to think about.

“The breaks at Morley mean we can give our other children opportunities and attention and make time to sleep. It has made a massive difference to families.”

MORE: Campaigners warn of damage if Morley House is closed



They said it was vital to continue the fight to keep the centre open long-term, and that the year-long reprieve only pushed the issue back.

Campaigners have previously criticised the lack of consultation over the closure, but the council said in papers from Tuesday’s meeting that “contractual negotiations are commercially sensitive and therefore by their very nature are not public”.

Morley House, which opened in 2010, offers breaks to children aged five to 18 with learning disabilities, as well as weekly boarding placements during school term time.

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