FAMILIES caring for relatives with disabilities will have to travel more than 40 miles to access vital respite care as Ryedale's last respite centre will close.

The closure of Woodside, at Keld Head, Pickering, run by the Wilf Ward Family Trust will cease to provide spaces for short breaks due to funding issues as of December. Instead the centre will become a more permanent residential home.

But for families caring for those who often need round the clock care a lack of respite care in Ryedale will leave them vulnerable and unable to have the vital breaks they often desperately need.

Steve Parks, 56 and his wife Linda, 62, live in a specially designed bungalow in Pickering to meet the needs of their 35-year-old daughter Shona.

Shona was born paraplegic, meaning she is paralysed from the waist down, is epileptic and wheelchair bound.

Steve, who says Shona is unable to do anything for herself, has spoken of his concern following the loss of respite care in the area.

He said: "I don't know what we are going to do now. Shona can't do anything for herself and the centres give me and my wife a vital break.

"It means we are not getting up in the middle of the night to see if Shona is ok and to check on her. It isn't getting any easier as we get older as well.”

Shona, who attends a day centre at Malton four days a week whilst Steve works part-time, has been visiting Woodside for more than 20 years. She has also used Errol House at Boston Spa, also run by the Wilf Ward Trust, which will stop taking residents for respite from September.

For Steve and Linda it offers them a chance to recuperate, something which is vital for carers.

Steve McIntosh, policy and and public affairs manager for national charity Carers UK said: "Though rewarding, caring for a disabled or older loved one without enough practical support, can put huge strain on carers.

"Being able to take time away from caring is vitally important to enable carers to looking after their own health and well-being."

Over the past 18 months the number of residents checking in to Woodside and Errol Spa for short respite breaks has fallen, a prime reason for the closure according to Wilf Ward Trust CEO Paul McCay.

He said: "We have come to a point where we have been subsidising the service but we can't allow that to continue. We will continue to offer respite care but on a more permanent housing basis.

"I think it is really regrettable that we have had to take this action and we have not taken it lightly. We do not have enough people coming to make it a viable business anymore. We are continuing to work in partnership with our local authorities and we will continue to offer support where we can."

But for Steve and his family his words have done little to quell their worries.

"Why should I have to put Shona in care when she's still capable of living at home and I'm still capable of looking after her. I don't want her to go in to permanent residence and I know that Shona wouldn't like it either," said Steve.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council confirmed that Ryedale will no longer have a respite care centre once the Woodside centre closes.

The spokesman said: “Although there is no respite care in Ryedale there are two available to the people of Ryedale. There is one in Scarborough and another in Selby which opened on Apil,1.”

Paul McCay said that staff jobs would not be affected through the changeover of services. The new residential homes are expected to open next year.