PARENTS fighting to keep a specialist education unit in Redditch open long enough for a full consultation have overturned a county council decision to close it down and move services to Kidderminster.
Worcestershire County Council has confirmed that the Medical Education Team (MET) in Easemore Road will now remain open from the start of the term after public law experts threatened to challenge the closure on behalf of two families using the service.
Distraught parents learnt of the decision to close the base, which offers education to children with physical or mental health needs who are unable to attend school, in July, just a week before the end of term.
However, two families, whose children attend the MET, engaged law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate the decision-making process at County Hall and its lack of consultation with service users.
Lawyers planned to challenge the council’s decision on the grounds that they had not had not fulfilled their legal duties.
Now the county council has agreed to keep the centre open pending consultation with the relevant families.
Parent Rod Hewson said: “We are ecstatic. It had a catastrophic effect on my daughter’s emotional state and they must take responsibility for the effects their actions have had on mental health patients.”
Polly Sweeney, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell said: “The base provides an important service to children locally and the decision to close without any notice has caused many families considerable worry and anxiety over the summer.
“We hope the council will now work with the families to ensure the right decision is reached in relation to the future of the base.”
County Councillor Pattie Hill, (Lab, Arrow Valley West) said: “This is brilliant news but to be honest it is immensely sad that families have to go to this extent.
I have reminded the county council countlesss time of what it says in the Childrens Act – which is that the child is paramount – are you interested in cutting costs or in caring for our children? So it is all power to the parents.”
Catherine Driscoll, Worcestershire County Council’s Director of Children, Families and Communities, said: “We have listened carefully to the ongoing feedback from parents on how these proposed changes may affect them. As a result of this feedback we recognise more time is needed to discuss the best outcomes for children using the MET service at the Redditch base.
“In the next few weeks Babcock Prime, on behalf of the county council, will launch a consultation with families who use the service.
“The Redditch MET base will remain open from the start of the new term, pending the result of the consultation, as we work to achieve the best outcomes for these children and their families.”