Families of disabled children fight helpline closure

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Kindred staff and service users

Families are set to protest outside Edinburgh City Chambers on Friday 8 December against the closure of a helpline for families of disabled children

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7th December 2017 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

Hundreds of Edinburgh families are protesting a City of Edinburgh Council decision to block a charity from accessing funding for a helpline for families of disabled children.

The charity Kindred will be staging a carol singing protest outside Edinburgh’s City Chambers on Friday 8 December in a bid to save its popular helpline.

A 38 degrees petition has also picked up over 1,800 signatures at the time of publication.

Sophie Pilgrim, Kindred’s director, said: “I have been advised to plan an exit strategy for Kindred, but the families are coming out to save our service. I’m hoping beyond hope that there will be a fairy tale ending to this nightmare.”

Kindred is a parent-led Edinburgh based charity that has supported families of children with disabilities and other complex needs for over 25 years. 

Its helpline is unique across the whole of the UK and has been supported by NHS Lothian, which has provided Kindred with office accommodation since it was established 25 years ago.

However, City of Edinburgh Council has now decided to bundle £206,000 in funding for parent information services within a much bigger, £1.2 million contract, which includes services outwith the scope of Kindred’s exoerience. This effectively prevents Kindred from reapplying for the funding to run the helpline.

Two core members of staff have already been made redundant due to the uncertainty caused by the tender and three more redundancies are planned for 1 January.

Pilgrim said: “City of Edinburgh has a responsibility to tender services in a way that improves provision. I am calling on councillors to halt this tender which will destroy an effective service. 

“We cannot apply for the current tender because there is mix of services for which we have no experience. Our funding will go to other providers with no experience of supporting parents. Many councillors will be parents themselves and I hope they will understand the strength of feeling about our service.”

Kindred supports more than 1,000 families across all its projects in Scotland.

Earlier this year it announced it was facing an £80,000 funding deficit and it claims loss of the helpline will further undermine the viability of other services, so further staff will be at risk of redundancy. This includes teams at Edinburgh’s Sick Children’s Hospital and teams in Glasgow and Fife helping families dealing with complex and life-limiting conditions.

One mum who is supporting the campaign to keep the helpline open said: “The service is like a breath of fresh air. To be told the diagnosis of your child's condition turns your world upside down. Then to be put in contact with a service such as Kindred where the staff understand how you are feeling and are there to help is amazing.”

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesman said: “The open tender for this new service was produced after input from both service users and providers. This valuable stakeholder engagement helped inform the specification and highlighted the need for a ‘one service’ philosophy with providers working together to improve services for children and their families.

“This opportunity was openly advertised for all interested parties and collaborative bids between third sector organisations were encouraged, with extra time being allowed for the process. The outcome of the tender process is still to be determined.”

Friday’s protest will begin at 2pm outside Edinburgh City Chambers and all supporters are welcome to attend.

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7th December 2017 by Sophie

Thank you for a really good article which clearly explains our complex story. I hope other charities who have been affected by poorly designed procurement will support us.Sophie