The MS Society has decided to stop providing residential respite services in response to the personalisation agenda.
The charity’s board of trustees said a year-long consultation with more than 1600 multiple sclerosis sufferers had found that service users wanted more personalised short break services than those provided through its four respite centres.
Eighty per cent of people surveyed by the charity said their preferred option for a short break was a holiday venue, while respondents also expressed a preference for social activities and more flexible options.
In a statement, the board of trustees said: “As people want more choice and control, the MS Society needs to be in the best position to help people with MS and their families understand what is available and make these choices.”
The charity said it would use its resources to help people access short breaks across the whole of the UK, including by recommending other providers’ services, grant-funding other services and providing information.
The society is now consulting with staff at the four centres and is aiming to transfer all of them, including their staff, to new providers, though if this does not happen, the centres will be closed.
It will continue to provide residential respite until November 2011 at the latest, pending any decision on transferring the services.
Though the society insisted that the decision was not financially motivated, it spent £2.7m on subsidising fees for service users at the four centres in 2009.