Maverick Walker, 15 and his mother Donna Walker are upset that the Interchange respite house is now closed.
Maverick Walker, 15 and his mother Donna Walker are upset that the Interchange respite house is now closed. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Interchange closure shocks clients

MAVERICK Walker, 15, and his parents have relied on Interchange Respite Care for breaks away from home since he was five years old.

Now it's gone.

After a tumultuous few years, the Lismore institution quietly closed its doors about two weeks ago when its vacation care program wound up for the 2011/12 Christmas break.

However the service Maverick used since he was five had long finished by the time the doors closed on January 27.

Members of the Interchange board contacted by The Northern Star were not talking on record yesterday, but it was understood the closure was forced after the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability, and Home Care chose to redirect funding from Interchange to other services.

The department was last night considering questions from The Northern Star about its reasons for pulling funding from Interchange.

Once legal action over an unfair dismissal case by sacked manager and co-ordinator, Margo Sten and Di Hughes, was resolved, it was expected the service's assets would be sold and the money distributed between other local charity groups and the department.

"It will go to the community, one way or another," one board member said.

Maverick's mother, Donna, said she was told the service would close only a few days before Christmas.

The news had come as a shock.

"Just before that, in early December, we'd got the information on Maverick's next six months of weekends at Interchange," Ms Walker said.

"They were telling us this is your schedule for the next six months, then ... they told us they were closing."

The closure hasn't meant an interruption of service for Maverick. He has had his regular respite care with other providers, such as Red Inc. It was understood Interchange had put a lot of work into setting up alternative arrangements for its clients.

However that did not make the loss any less sad. Ms Walker paid tribute to Ms Sten, who founded the service.

"Since Maverick was five he has been welcomed at Interchange Respite Service with open arms," she said.

"Our family was given counselling, support and advice. Interchange workers have been a part of our extended family for years."

Ms Walker said she would have liked the chance to have fought to save the service.

"I would have liked a bit more time to be made aware and then I could have gone to the newspapers and rallied support," she said.

"It closed before we even had a chance to fight for it."





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