Concerns raised over cuts to vital care in East Renfrewshire

Ruth Cherry, who is autistic, non-verbal and epileptic, has been left without overnight carers following a policy change
Ruth Cherry, who is autistic, non-verbal and epileptic, has been left without overnight carers following a policy change

A family fear replacing carers with technology has put a vulnerable woman with complex learning difficulties at risk.

Ruth Cherry, who is autistic, non-verbal and epileptic, has been left without overnight carers following a policy change her brother believes is a “cost cutting” measure.

The 27-year-old moved into her Thornliebank home in January, a step her parents only approved because round-the-clock care was available.

Just six months later, health chiefs decided to remove that care.

East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership claims a new telecommunications system offers “less intrusive and more effective” support.

But Ruth’s worried mum Shona, from Giffnock, has been living with her daughter since Tuesday last week amid fears the system will not keep her safe.

“It’s not really sustainable,” Ruth’s brother David said, explaining how his mum also cares for his dad Ian, who has epilepsy, and younger brother Stuart, who is also autistic.

David has launched a petition calling on the partnership to reverse the decision to “downgrade” her support, with over 2,700 people signing so far.

“I don’t think anyone as vulnerable as Ruth should ever be left locked-up, alone, in their home all night,” he said.

“I can understand economic pressures, I can understand for some people it works but for someone who can’t walk or talk or escape danger I don’t see how it can work.

“It seems to be coming from cost cutting and not what is right for the people involved.”

He added: “My mum’s been a carer in an all encompassing way for a very long time. I want to see my mum and dad able to claim back a life again.”

David explained how under the new system Ruth is put to bed by a care worker, who locks the house and leaves his sister alone from 10pm to 8am.

A microphone listens out for sounds of distress and a camera can be activated to check on her condition, he said. If there are any issues then a carer will be sent to help.

However, Shona is worried it will take too long for the operators in Wishaw to contact support workers in Thornliebank.

The family say Ruth’s GP has condemned the decision to alter her care while police and fire chiefs have also raised concerns.

Her mum said the family were told Ruth would have to take part in a trial of the new technology but this “would prove she still needed overnight care”.

However, in a social care catch-up meeting they were told she would no longer have carers through the night. “We didn’t expect it all,” Shona added.

She is also “really concerned” after discovering the technology’s cut-off time is 7.30am and Ruth’s carers don’t arrive until 8am, meaning she could be left without any care.

“It’s not ideal, at the minute we’re getting through it,” she said. “It’s all round distressing.”

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “The care of our residents is our absolute priority and we are always considering the best way to deliver services which suit their individual needs.

“The revised policy for overnight support was introduced following careful consideration, and due to significant advances in technology we can now care for people in a less intrusive and more effective way throughout the night.

“We are committed to continuing to work closely with families to ensure the best provision is in place.”