Depressed parents' care workers are temporarily extended

Woman with head in hands
Image caption Parents say the carers help to "normalise" their emotions

Parents in Somerset who care for children with mental health needs have been granted a temporary lifeline over the amount of support they get.

The county council has extended by two months the funding for two specialist care workers who support them.

Many of the parents have depression and anxiety as a result of looking after their children.

One parent said the extension did not go far enough, and that they were not being listened to.

Parents who look after their children with conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome, autism and depression have said that isolation, loss of a career and the constant mental and physical strain of sleepless nights have led them to feel suicidal.

One father of a teenage boy with Asperger's said: "I'm glad my wife's got the care support because about a week ago I nearly lost her… she wanted to [kill herself]."

'Not listening'

Parents have been helped by mental health workers funded by the council as part of a three-year trial that was due to end on Friday.

Since BBC Somerset first reported on the changes earlier this month, the council has held emergency strategy meetings with NHS Somerset and Somerset Partnership, and has decided to extend them until the end of January.

They are to be replaced with Compass Disability, a universal carers' support service which will help both parents and children. Carers will not be specifically trained in mental health.

Parents have criticised this decision, saying they are worried about the continuity of support they will receive after the extension.

Kate (not her real name), the mother of a teenage boy who was suicidal and self-harming, said: "They are not listening to the carers of children, and that is a dreadful thing for them to be doing. It's incredibly shortsighted and potentially disastrous."

'Families will go under'

She said the support workers had helped to normalise her emotions and keep the family together.

"My worry is if the service is cut, many families will go under and the impact on the services locally will be appalling.

"The ramifications of cutting this service would be enormous, and given the growing number of children developing mental health problems, the carers' assessment service should be expanded and not cut."

In a statement, the council said: "The funding was always short-term and we do not have the money to continue with the pilot permanently."

It added it was "doing the very best that it can with the resources it has".

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