SIR - I think that the Sidmouth Herald should be commended for including a four-page feature in the issue dated January 27, 2012, drawing attention to the difficulties faced by carers who look after loved ones suffering from dementia.

You also include in that feature details of organisations in the Sidmouth area offering support for carers, and I think that the volunteers and others who run or help with these organisations deserve a huge “Thank you”.

However, there is, unfortunately, no getting away from the fact that the free of charge day respite care facilities that were previously offered at Stowford Lodge are badly missed, and there is, as yet, no equivalent substitute for the withdrawal of those facilities.

It seems that we have effectively moved from a situation where the NHS services for those suffering from dementia included provision of day respite care - and this, of course, not only helped the dementia sufferer by providing a change of scene etc, but it also helped to preserve the good health of the carer - to a situation where day respite care is the responsibility of Devon County Council Social Services.

And, of course, others, such as voluntary groups and local care homes, have tried to step into the gap to support carers - and they should be commended for that.

The apparent change to the responsibilities of the NHS in this area is presumably a result of a Government decision - although I do not know this. As I understand it, a significant point regarding the current responsibility of Social Services for respite care etc is that the services are chargeable - subject to means testing.

I understand that, broadly, any dementia sufferer who has assets of more than about �23,000 (and this can apparently include the value of the home in some cases) does not generally qualify for assistance towards the cost of respite care etc provided by Social Services.

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Thus, it seems that many people who have saved to give themselves some security against unexpected events or commitments will find that this prevents any help being given towards the cost of respite care provided by Social Services – and in these days of inadequate pensions from many pension schemes that no longer offer defined benefits, many people are going to have to save to give themselves security in retirement.

Thus, it seems that we are not going to be able to go back to the situation regarding day respite care that existed prior to the ending of such services at Stowford Lodge - unless the Working Group can come up with a particularly insightful plan - or unless we can find or create a charity that can gather the resources to purchase Stowford Lodge and then provide day respite care facilities there.

But, even then, would the charity have to charge for day respite care at Stowford Lodge, in order to try and cover the costs of operation of the facility?

As always, I should qualify the above by saying that I am only a layman in this area, so that my comments may include unintended inaccuracies due to my lack of understanding.

I am not a carer, nor do I now have any connection with anyone suffering with dementia (though in the past I have had) - but it is a cause for concern that a carer trying to do their best for a loved one (and, as I have said before, saving this country a lot of money in care fees) should be faced with the obstacle of the withdrawal of free day respite care.

With respite care and other services possibly being needed in more advanced cases on several days per week, the costs can easily add up - and I hope that a way can be found to give carers a better future.

John Labrum

12 Ballard Grove, Sidford