A CARER who has campaigned for more than a year to get a former respite centre reopened says her and her son’s lives have been a “daily, living nightmare”.

Mum Lisa Stead made the comments as she reflected back on the past 16-month battle with civic chiefs, who have now announced that Kentish Road Respite Centre will reopen full-time in July.

But she, along with other campaigners, have blasted as “disgraceful” the time its has taken Southampton City Council to restore the care facility to a seven days-a-week service after its closure in December 2017.

It current operates just weekend and emergency respite care following a partial council u-turn in June last year by the then-new leader Chris Hammond.

“It’s certainly been hellish,” Mrs Stead said.

“We should never have had to do this. We shouldn’t have to campaign to keep services like Kentish Road open.

“It’s been a daily, living nightmare; We just felt completely cut-off, isolated, and persecuted.”

The decision to fully reopen the respite centre was revealed by adult social care chief Councillor Lorna Fielker, just days after she announced at the authority’s Full Council meeting that she “cannot give a timeline”.

The news also came in the same week as watchdog the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) criticised the authority’s original move – which was made following a decision in 2015 – noting several failings, especially the way it caused “avoidable uncertainty and distress” to users.

Speaking on BBC Radio Solent, she said: “We totally accept the findings of [the LGO’s] report that has been published and I’m really sorry for the experience that carers and people that used Kentish Road have experienced.

“It’s just not right. I cannot say more than how sad I am that Southampton City Council has not delivered in then way that they should’ve.

“But, I’m very pleased that earlier this month we agreed that it’s going to reopen for respite seven day-a-week.

“From April of this year there will be money in the budget to provide a seven-day respite service and we will now be working to make sure that we can get that open, and that should happen by July of this year.”

This news has been cautiously welcomed by Mrs Stead and fellow campaigner Amanda Guest, who are both parents of users of the centre.

“Lessons need to be learnt from this,” said Ms Guest.

“And if the council does not follow through with this promise, it would be utterly disgraceful.”

Nevertheless, she added: “It’s really great news.

“Even though I’m happy, my daughter is even more so. They have their community back; their community of friends.

“We always knew we were going to get that centre back open. No matter how long it took, we were never going to give up.

“Through sheer determination, the constant pressure, and the backing from the public – which we’ll never forget, I’m happy the decision has finally been made.

“But I hope it will not open with reduced services, because we will keep fighting until it’s back to the level that the users need, not what the council deems enough.”

The pair have been the figureheads of the campaign to reopen the centre, having organised marches, protests, petitions, and even standing in the local elections last year.

“I feel very triumphant; very proud,” said Mrs Stead.

“It would’ve been nicer if they [the council] had acknowledged the undue stress and upset the closure has caused many of users and their families, but I’m happy the centre will now reopen full-time.”

The duo have also questioned the motives of the Labour-controlled council, as the city draws ever closer to the May local elections.

Mrs Stead added: “I do not think they [the council] have any empathy. They think we’re just a pain in the backside, and our campaign didn’t look good for them.

“The elections are coming up and they hope it will look good for them in terms of that.

“They have pretty much been forced to do it, rather than choosing to.

“This has happened exactly because of the pressure of the media supporting our campaign; It’s great for everybody that this has happened.”

Speaking last night, Paul Juan, the council's service director for adults, housing and communities, said: “We are very grateful to carers, people living with a learning disability and their representatives for all of their contributions to the vision for the future of Kentish Road. This includes options for expanding the current service to operate round the clock, seven days a week.

"A decision on the next steps will be made by Cabinet, with an ambition to expand the service later in the year.”

However, another to criticise the time taken to make the decision was leader of the Conservative opposition Dan Fitzhenry.

He said: “This is disgraceful how the council got here.

“Finally, after-nearly five years of campaigning, hundreds of thousands of wasted funds, and more importantly a huge amount of unnecessary stress on our city’s most vulnerable – culminating in an admission of failure of care, Labour have finally listened to our careers and service users and reopened the service, albeit it at double the cost they closed it for.”