Adults with learning disabilities in St Albans will be ‘seriously affected’ by respite centre closures

Jackie Wilks, Andrew Wilks and Sharon Shepheard are campaigning against the closure of respite care

Jackie Wilks, Andrew Wilks and Sharon Shepheard are campaigning against the closure of respite care services in Hertfordshire. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Adults with learning disabilities may be left without respite care after a county council panel voted to recommend the closure of centres in St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Bishops Stortford.

In a meeting of Herts County Council's adult care and health panel on February 7, the group Carers in Hertfordshire presented a petition signed by more than 1,500 people against the closures. The three respite centres under threat are Hixberry Lane in St Albans, Tewin Road in Hemel Hempstead and Apton Road in Bishops Stortford.

The petition was launched by St Albans mum Jackie Wilks, who has a 26-year-old daughter with learning disabilities, along with her husband Andrew and fellow mum Sharon Shepheard, who also has a daughter with learning disabilities the same age.

Members of the panel voted against the petition, and the cabinet will now make the final decision on February 24.

Cllr Nigel Bell, deputy leader of the county Labour group, said: "It was very dispiriting to see seven Conservative members vote to close the three respite centres.

"We had listened to Jackie Wilks argue persuasively for a service that works collectively with users for their needs while trying to be cost effective.

"It became clear that many families do not have the full facts about respite care availability and that it should be better publicised."

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Liberal Democrats also spoke against the closures, including leader of St Albans district council Cllr Chris White.

He said: "Tewin Road and Hixberry Lane both have usage in excess of 80 per cent and high levels of user satisfaction. Closing them makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and a glance at the map of service users shows how many will be seriously affected by the closure of these units."

Cllr Richard Roberts, the county council's executive member for adult care and health, said: "Our current short breaks services are not fully used, so we have made proposals to reduce the overall number of centres by making better use of all those that we have.

"We will continue to offer the same level of support for people currently using the service.

"We are committed to working with people who need respite services to help us improve and develop them so they are fit for the future."