Plans to close Hemel Hempstead respite centre for adults with disabilities

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Concerns have been raised at proposals to close a number of 'short break' centres for adults with disabilities in Hertfordshire.

The centres offer adults with disabilities a break from their daily routine and can offer the opportunity to learn new skills during their stay.

But they are primarily designed to give often much-needed respite to those who devote much of their lives to their care.

Currently the council offers respite places at eight residential centres across the county.

But now they are looking at proposals to close three of those centres - Hixberry Lane, in St Albans, Isabel Court, in Hoddesdon and Tewin Road, in Hemel Hempstead - which provide a total of 13 respite places.

And although the plans are at an early consultation stage, that has prompted Labour councillors Nigel Bell and Sharon Taylor to raise the issue - amid fears carers will have to travel up to 15 miles.

At a meeting of the performance and resources cabinet panel on Thursday (October 24) Labour's Cllr Sharon Taylor highlighted the value of the service.

After pointing to a number of Stevenage residents who rely on the respite service, she said it was important not to disrupt a service that was "incredibly valuable".

"This can have such a profound impact on people's lives," she said. "I wouldn't want us to take steps towards that without more consideration."

And she said she was concerned that carers may have to travel further - impacting on them and the environment.

She said: "We shouldn't be extending people's travel distances, unless we have thought very hard abut how we are going to do that sustainably."

According to the county council the existing short break centres are under-used - with some centres less than half full during 2018/19.

And they point to carers who are using 'direct payments' to secure alternative types of provision from private providers.

But whether the places at the eight respite centres are used or not, the county council says it still has to meet the costs.

They say the closures could free up £900,000-a year that could be better used elsewhere.

And they say most people using the three centres earmarked for closure could access an alternative within 15 miles of their homes.

The consultation states: "The changes we are proposing in this consultation are about saving money by stopping paying for services that are not being used.

"But our wider ambition is to develop new, more personalised and flexible options for respite in general over the next three years."

At a meeting of the county council's adult care and health cabinet panel on Tuesday (October 22) Labour Cllr Nigel Bell said he hoped that Tewin Road would remain open, after talking to carers who used the service.

Director of adult care and health Iain MacBeath told him that consultation had started and based on feedback they were also looking at alternatives closures.

The consultation on the proposals is currently ongoing - but will end on on November 7.

Public meetings to discuss the consultation will be held at Fleetville Community Centre, in St Albans, on October 30 at 1pm and at Kings Langley Services Club, in Kings Langley, on November 1, at 2pm.

More information is at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/consultation