CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep a respite home open fear a decision to close it was made months ago.

Essex County Council has plans to shut Lavender House in Stanway, which offers short breaks for children with disabilities, to save money.

A six-week consultation ended on Monday and a decision will be made in the next fewmonths.

Campaigners fear it is a done deal because the council has already agreed to spend an £880,000 Government grant adapting foster carers’ homes and improving disabled access to short break destinations – suggested alternatives to Lavender House made in July last year.

Stacey Thompson, whose son, Oliver, has been on a waiting list for Lavender House for three years, said: “It seems like their plan was to throw goodies at us in the form of beach huts, caravans and accessible toilets, so our backs are turned and they can whip away residential overnight respite and stick in this foster care scheme.

“The council treats us like we’re stupid and plays on the fact we’re so busy juggling appointments and fighting for things our children should be getting automatically.

“It thinks we’ll be too shattered to fight when it quietly begin to take some services away to replace them with a cheaper option. It is wrong.”

Mrs Thompson, 28, of Highwoods, Colchester, has already handed in a copy of an online petition with 2,581 signatures calling for Lavender House, which opened in August 2001, to be saved.

There are 42 staff at the 12-bed home, which provided overnight respite care to 110 children aged between five and 18 last year.

County Hall says it is not being fully used and could be closed in favour of spot-purchasing private or charity respite care to save money.

A council spokesman said the spending on adaptations to foster carers’ homes and short break destinations was not related to the overnight respite consultation.

He said: “There was not a need identified to invest capital monies in Lavender House because the home is already adapted for disabled children.”

He said there had been a significant level of response to the consultation and the council was analysing the feedback in order to report back later this year.