AN East Renfrewshire family fear replacing carers with technology has put a vulnerable woman with complex learning difficulties at risk, writes Drew Sandelands.

Ruth Cherry, who is autistic, non-verbal and epileptic, has been left without overnight carers following a policy change her brother believes is a “cost-cutting” measure.

The 27-year-old moved into her Thornliebank home in January – a step her parents only approved because round-the-clock care was available.

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Just six months later, health chiefs decided to remove that care.

East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) claims a new telecommunications system offers “less intrusive and more effective” support.

But Ruth’s worried mum Shona has been living with her daughter since last Tuesday amid fears the system will not keep her safe.

“It’s not really sustainable,” said Ruth’s brother David, who explained how his mum also cares for his dad Ian, who has epilepsy, and younger brother Stuart, who is also autistic.

David has launched a petition calling on the partnership to reverse the decision to “downgrade” his sister’s support, with more than 2,700 people signing so far.

“I don’t think anyone as vulnerable as Ruth should ever be left locked-up, alone, in their home all night,” he said.

“I can understand economic pressures, I can understand for some people it works but, for someone who can’t walk or talk or escape danger, I don’t see how it can work.

“It seems to be coming from cost-cutting and not what is right for the people involved.”

He added: “My mum has been a carer in an all-encompassing way for a very long time. I want to see my mum and dad able to claim their lives back.”

David explained how, under the new system, Ruth is put to bed by a care worker, who locks the house and leaves his sister alone from 10pm to 8am.

A microphone listens out for sounds of distress and a camera can be activated to check on her condition, he said. If there are any issues, a carer will be sent to help.

However, Shona is worried it will take too long for the operators in Wishaw to contact support workers in Thornliebank.

The family say Ruth’s GP has condemned the decision to alter her care, while police and fire chiefs have also raised concerns.

Her mum said the family were told Ruth would have to take part in a trial of the new technology but this “would prove she still needed overnight care.”

However, in a social care catch-up meeting, they were told she would no longer have carers through the night.

“We didn’t expect it all,” said Shona, from Giffnock.

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She is also “really concerned” after discovering the technology’s cut-off time is 7.30am and Ruth’s carers don’t arrive until 8am, meaning she could be left without any care.

“It’s not ideal,” she added. “At the minute, we’re getting through it.

A spokesperson for East Renfrewshire HSCP said: “The care of our residents is our absolute priority and we are always considering the best way to deliver services which suit their individual needs.

“The revised policy for overnight support was introduced following careful consideration and, due to significant advances in technology, we can now care for people in a less intrusive and more effective way throughout the night.

“We are committed to continuing to work closely with families to ensure the best provision is in place.”