The cost of caring: The charities pulling desperate families back from the brink

We all know family life can be stressful but families with disabled children can face an overwhelming combination of financial, emotional and practical pressures.

Without regular support and respite breaks many carers find themselves in crisis.

But with councils short of cash and the Government accused of cutting back on its social care commitments - it is being left to charities to plug the care gap - charities like Stockdales in Sale, Greater Manchester.

Neel is nearly 13 and has severe learning disabilities Credit: ITV Granada

Neel is nearly 13.  His learning disabilities mean he will never be able to live independently.  He needs help eating and going to the toilet and communicates using gestures.  Neel's mother Ritu describes him as a "beautiful soul" and the bond between them is obvious.  But life as a carer can be relentless 

Ritu Iyer said: "From the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep - Neel needs maximum assistance with everything. He cannot function without help."

Ritu admits the family were in crisis when they were put in contact with Stockdales, a charity that supports children and adults with learning disabilities and complex health needs. 

Neel's mother Ritu describes her son as a "beautiful soul" Credit: ITV Granada

With breathtaking honesty Ritu says without their help, things could have turned out very differently.

Ritu said: " I would have given him away because I wasn't able to cope or I would have committed suicide...because it was too much…the stress it placed on my mental health because there was no break."

Neel means everything to me. I want to spend every second  with him but at that time it was like, I can't look after myself, please, help me, otherwise I can't look after my son. I'm really glad that I have that support now."

Carers now visit Neel at home to help with his evening routine and he enjoys going to the charity's children's club on a Saturday

Ritu said: " It means my child has somewhere else to go where he is welcome, where people aren't going to struggle understanding him. It's made me happy as a mum that my child is safe and as a family... oh my God we get a break!"

John says knowing his son Gavin has a "home for life" at Stockdales has given him peace of mind Credit: ITV Granada

Gavin Jones is 47 and has needed round the clock care since birth.  He's lived in one of Stockdale's residential homes for the past 35 years.  His father John visits regularly and says it was the best decision for everyone. 

John said: "When Gavin (came to Stockdales) we got our son back. I could be Gavin's dad and not his carer. His mum could be his mum and not a carer."

John says knowing Gavin's happy and safe and has a home for life has given him peace of mind. 

John said: " I often describe it as though I've been planning my own death since I was 26. That sounds a little macabre but it's actually all part of the thinking parents like us have which is "what happens when we are no longer here?"

"It's a constant worrying thought and it's one I don't have now and I am very very lucky that Stockdales provides us with that luxury, that we don't have to worry about Gavin. Gavin is as happy day to day as he can be and is happy to see me but is happy when I go."

Gavin lives with five other residents who are looked after by a team of carers.

Stockdales House Manager Kelvin Mazambani said: "The idea is to help all our residents to live their life to the fullest, for them to have new experiences. 

"After they move in we tend to see a difference in their health - just because they're having new experiences and trying new activities."

Stockdales was set up seventy years ago in Sale, Greater Manchester by a group of parents whose children had learning disabilities.  Over the years it has supported thousands of families but it relies heavily on fundraising and donations

And while recruitment is an ongoing problem for all social care organisations - there is a huge demand for their services.

Stockdales supports families and people with learning disabilities and complex medical needs Credit: ITV Granada

Stockdales CEO Emma Morris said: "The pressure is intense to keep going as a charity - we've got to.  You've got to take care seriously.

|You have to realise the need is out there and prioritise those services for people who are really struggling.  It's a real challenge - the fundraising side of things because it runs through everything that we do.

"We have to make sure we have the resources to ensure we can offer the best possible care for people and families."

A recent report commissioned by Hft, a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities, and Care England, which represents the adult social care sector found nearly half of social care providers in England have been forced to close part of their organisation or hand back contracts to councils as a result of cost pressures in the last year. 

Social care is primarily funded by local authorities, who have a duty to organise and fund support for adults in need who are not able to pay for it themselves.

Most councils commission charities to provide this care. 

However, councils have faced significant real-terms cuts to their funding over the past decade, which has resulted in many local authorities struggling to properly fund these services.

But with councils short of cash and the Government accused of cutting back on its social care commitments.

Charities like Stockdales will have to carry on plugging the gaps somehow.

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