Celebrations as the New Treetops is officially opened

PUBLISHED: 13:01 14 July 2008 | UPDATED: 22:03 15 June 2010

The Treetops facility in Exeter - a respite, or short breaks service for people with complex learning and physical disabilities - will be officially opened at 11am on Tuesday, July 15, by the chairman of Devon County Council, Cllr John Rawlinson.

The Treetops facility in Exeter - a respite, or short breaks service for people with complex learning and physical disabilities - will be officially opened at 11am on Tuesday, July 15, by the chairman of Devon County Council, Cllr John Rawlinson.

Carers and special guests will attend the ceremony.

The single storey building on Polsloe Road is a purpose built six-bed unit for people with learning disabilities to stay for short periods, from a single night up to two weeks.

It provides overnight accommodation in a safe environment equipped to meet people's very specific care needs, with staff onsite at all times.

It is also providing carers like Val Heywood with much-needed breaks from their caring roles.

Val Heywood's daughter, Katie, who uses a wheelchair, has attended the New Treetops service since the building was completed.

Val said: "Being a carer is a joyful and rewarding experience, but when you're on call, sometimes for 24 hours a day - it is also undeniably tiring.

"Pressures of everyday life can be challenging, but are even more so when the main focus of one's life is the care and wellbeing of someone else who is wholly dependent on you.

"Phil, my husband, and I don't really consider ourselves to be 'carers', we are just looking after our 22- year-old daughter as we have done for all of her life and will continue to do so as long as we are physically able.

"We believe that living at home is the best place for her. However, it can be difficult, especially if you become ill. I can think of few things worse than having to care for someone when you are also unwell.

"As carers, we all need support, back up and a break from routine to look forward to, if only for a few days, and this is where we depend on support from a professional team of carers such as those at New Treetops.

"Having a place to send your disabled child or relative for a short break, or during an emergency because you are ill, is so important and gives peace of mind.

"The team at the New Treetops Short Break Unit is great! The staff are always keen to make our daughter welcome and as comfortable and happy as they can.

"The new building is very impressive, well designed with homely, comfortable accommodation, lovely en-suite bedrooms and a newly designed sensory garden. In others words it provides a great environment for clients, staff and visitors.

"We have confidence in the unit to provide the care and attention which our daughter needs and feel that we can occasionally have some quality, free time.

"It allows us to spend more time with other family members, go to places we would not normally be able to visit and come back feeling stronger."

The modern building is equipped with the latest technologies, including specialist baths and showers and overhead hoists. All bedrooms are fitted with epilepsy alarms and have televisions and CD players.

It has an activities room, which is multi-functional, and can be used for relaxation with portable sensory equipment and other activities. The sensory equipment was funded by the parents and carers group, 'Friends of Treetops' from various fundraising activities.

The kitchen has a specially designed 'rise and fall' work top which allows people in wheel chairs to use it and be involved with food preparation if they want to.

Some rooms have patio doors leading to the outside, with a patio area for various outdoor activities. Also outside is a specially designed sensory garden accessible and enjoyable to everyone.

The New Treetops takes its name from the original respite unit in Exwick, which had become old and no longer suitable to accommodate a modern care service. Major Geoff Bird, MBE, and his late wife Molly, were instrumental in establishing the original Treetops service in Exwick. The couple worked tirelessly to raise funds to build and equip the original premises.

Staff at the New Treetops service have recently won a top award at the county council's Adult and Community Services Awards ceremony, for their hard work and commitment to providing a first class service.

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