Forget-Me-Not Project asks people to use its Berry House respite care home – or face losing it.

A charity that runs the only respite care home for adults with learning disabilities in North Devon has issued a cry for help.

The Forget-Me-Not Project, which runs Berry House in Barnstaple, has called on more people to make use of its services or it could be forced to close.

This year’s AGM revealed it had made a loss and at the current rate, committee members have estimated the five-bed Newport home can only operate for about two more years.

Last month the Gazette reported how the Bethany Project had gone into administration following difficulties in securing more referrals from social services.

It would be a huge blow for staff, carers and clients if Berry House did close after 22 years of providing much-needed respite care and short breaks for adults with learning disabilities.

The home employs six staff and offers a variety of respite care options for clients from across North Devon.

The problem stems from the newer direct payment system increasingly used by social services, where people are given an annual lump sum to spend rather than a specific allocation of respite care weeks.

“It’s good that people are given more choice, but they might not realise they can also use that funding for payments here too,” said Jane Batchelor, secretary and administrator at the project.

“We are the only respite care home of this sort in North Devon and if we were to close there would be a massive gap in care for adults with learning disabilities.

“Berry House is here to give the carers a break, but it’s also a chance for the individuals themselves to come and be a bit more independent for a couple of weeks. We can accommodate more aspects of care and assess each individual on their own needs.

“We need your support now to ensure this facility is still here in two years time.”

In May the home received a glowing report from the Care Quality Commission after an unannounced inspection, which it passed with flying colours.

Jane said fund raising had always been essential to keep the service going, but although many people knew of the Forget-Me-Not Project, they did not always link it with Berry House.

The charity was formed in 1983 by a group of parents and after fund raising hard for seven years it was able to purchase Berry House. The fund raising committee is headed by Sheila Cook and organises a variety of events throughout the year.

“We offer all kinds of care,” added Jane,

“We can do short breaks, we can take people for day care or we can even provide a ‘sitting service’ for a few hours.

“The main thing now is we need to fill the beds, because without that we have no money coming in and we just can’t sustain it. This is a cry for help for people to come and use us, as well as people or organisations willing to help out with donations, sponsorship or get involved in some way.”

To find out more about Berry House and the Forget-Me-Not Project, contact manager Martin Thompson on 01271 323879 or visit www.berryhouseonline.com