Blow for brain injury patients

A VITAL rehabilitation service for patients with brain injuries could be closed within two years after social services cut its funding by £70,000, bosses said today.

With pics of helen fairweather and Martin Patience>

A VITAL rehabilitation service for patients with brain injuries could be closed within two years after social services cut its funding by £70,000, bosses said today.

The Headway centre at Ipswich Hospital treats patients from across east Suffolk but its work helping people recover from head injuries and get back to work have hit difficulties after Suffolk County Council cuts.

Helen Fairweather, chief executive of Ipswich Headway, said: “It is now more difficult for new people to access the service unless they can find funding other than through social care.

“Some people that have recently had brain injuries or strokes are now not receiving any help at all.

“I had somebody referred to me just before Good Friday as an urgent case but we still haven't been able to secure funding for a place for them.”

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The charity has launched an urgent campaign to raise the missing funds but is finding it hard.

Mrs Fairweather said: “We have written to about 30 or 40 charitable trusts but they all come back with the same answer - that it's social services' responsibility and not something they can help with.

“If things carry on the way they are I don't know how we are going to survive. I think the centre could well be closed within two years.”

The council's social services department gives the centre money for each patient, with the amount varying depending on the amount of times the patient visits within a week.

Mrs Fairweather said: “We have people who used to come three times a week who have now had their funding cut to just one day a week. There's no alternative in place for them and it means they are just left sitting at home.

“These are people that we are teaching to read and write again, you wouldn't try and teach a child that in just one day.

“We are not just a day centre we are about rehabilitation and we are actively helping to get people back to work and off benefits. It may save the council money in the short-term but it's a very short-sighted approach.”

The cuts have also forced the charity to make two members of staff redundant and the problem is not confined to east Suffolk. The charity's west Suffolk branch has also had its funding cut by £30,000.

Andrew Cann, a Suffolk county councillor, and says he is so concerned by the cuts that he is writing a letter to the county council.

He said: “It's a value for money organisation that gets people who would not otherwise be able to return to work back into employment quickly.

“It does not make sense clinically or financially to withdraw this funding and I am asking the county council to urgently review its decision.”

A SUFFOLK County Council spokeswoman said the reduction in funding for Headway is part of more than £800,000 of savings the council has had to make to day care services across Suffolk.

She said: “The devastating settlement we received from the Government left us with some very hard decisions to make about where to spend our money.

“It is clear that we cannot continue to provide the same services in the same way as we have done in the past.

“We have had to review the individual needs of people who receive care packages from us, to make sure that there is fair access to services for everyone. We need to use the places we have in such a way that as many people as possible get the care they need, especially those people who are the most vulnerable.

“Unfortunately, this may lead to a reduction in the finances available to individual day centres, but we will be working with them to help them manage the situation where they will receive less funding from us.

“We are making sure that any changes to services are being done with great care, and we are trying to make sure that there are suitable alternatives available for those who need them.”

Ipswich Headway is based in Headway House in the grounds of Ipswich Hospital.

The centre is open weekdays from 10am to 4pm and offers educational and life skill training.

People go to the centre for differing amounts of time depending on their needs.

Patients are given the chance to take part in activities including IT, woodwork, arts, memory exercises, sports, gardening, crafts and numeracy.

The centre employs physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists to help people's rehabilitation.

People are referred to the centre by hospital doctors, GPs, social services or by their own families.


Ipswich man Martin Patience knows the value of Headway's work only too well.

The former roofer suffered a serious head injury after falling from a ladder at work in 2002. When he woke from his coma he did not even recognise his family.

Over the past four years he has worked painstakingly to piece his life back together a and Headway has been one of the vital sources of support for him.

He said: “I started going there about two years ago and it has just helped to turn my life around.

“One of the biggest things it has done for me is improve my confidence.

“The staff are brilliant and there's a real sense of community. Although everyone's injuries vary in severity, we are all going through similar things and can relate to each other.”

Martin, 40, of Riverside Road, has particularly enjoyed the IT courses and is in the process of writing a book about his experiences.

He said: “It would be such a shame if it had to close and other people were denied all the help that I've had.

“There's nothing else like it and I don't know what I would do without it.”

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