Help Save Maplewood House

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Help us look after our children and save Maplewood House.

Desperate parents have made a heartfelt public plea to Lancashire County Council not to close down a children's care home.

More than 100 mums, dads and disabled youngsters packed a public meeting to protest about the planned closure of the home in Bamber Bridge, near Preston.

A petition signed by more than 4,000 people was handed over to MP Mark Hendrick during the meeting at the Trades Hall on Station Road.

He, along with South Ribble and Chorley MPs David Borrow and Lindsay Hoyle, pledged to take the case forward, contacting ministers and presenting the petition to Parliament.

The Evening Post has officially launched its Save Maplewood Campaign to support the parents and youngsters so desperately in need of help.

Mums and children like Glenda Ball, whose son Matthew, 16, uses the centre one night a week.

Glenda said: "The only time he gets to mix with other children is when he goes to Maplewood. It is his social life as well as our respite."

The children's care home, on Ash Grove, Bamber Bridge, is earmarked for closure as part of the latest budget cuts at County Hall.

But parents with disabled children say the service is vital to provide respite services and are angry they've not been consulted.

Manoj Majhi, a member of Save Our Respite Establishments (SORE), said: "We call upon all county councillors to take this matter back to the full council meeting next month and reverse the decision. They've got to all go back and consider it properly."

Wendy Woods, one of a number of parents who spoke out at the meeting, said: "As far as I'm concerned, there is no consultation. According to some very senior social workers, social services have no plans whatsoever to look for alternative respite care for our children."

Jo Hilton, a former social worker, said her son Mark had recently left Maplewood's care because he turned 18.

She said: "That devastated him. He says he misses his princesses, the staff, but we accept that he had to leave but to have it forced on you is not right. It saved our family. You can't destroy all these families just because of cost-cutting."

Joy Grimshaw, whose son Christopher, 16, has been using Maplewood House since he was two, said: "I know when he's in Maplewood he's happy. He runs in, he skips and he laughs."

One man said the county council should scrap its newspaper, Vision, instead of the home, to save money. Another woman suggested office staff, rather than "shop floor" workers should be laid off.

Staff, who face losing their jobs as part of the closure, also attended to lend their support.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said: "From a staff point of view we've been left high and dry, but we're still caring for the children because we love them all.

"As staff, we've not had one word from anybody about this. I'm a county council employee and I have my contract to consider but it's very unfair to ask us to sit tight."

Another female worker said: "The children are part of our family. They're not commodities who come in and out every day. They are children with special needs and children who don't take kindly to change. We're not a service, we're an extended family."

She also said she "took exception" to the county council referring to Maplewood House as an "institution".

MP Lindsay Hoyle referred to the Lancashire County Council slogan, Every Child Matters, and said: "Except here, these children don't matter. I don't think, legally, they've used the correct process."

He urged parents to demand face-to-face meetings with County Hall chiefs where they should be made to explain themselves.

- originally published 22/04/06