Stay of execution for St Albans respite centre

Hixberry Lane respite centre now will not close until February.

Hixberry Lane respite centre now will not close until February. - Credit: Archant

A St Albans respite centre earmarked for closure is one of three set to remain open until February.

The centres – Hixberry Lane in St Albans, Tewin Road in Hemel Hempstead, and Apton Road in Bishop’s Stortford – are part of a network of eight centres in the county, providing overnight short breaks for adults with physical and learning disabilities.

They had been due to close by the end of September – as part of a plan that would remove ‘unused service capacity’ and save the county council an estimated £970,000 a year.

But at a meeting of the county council’s adult care and health cabinet panel on Monday councillors were told due to the impact of Covid-19 the closures had been postponed until the end of February.

And as part of the progress report they were told that social workers are now meeting with centre users to discuss their care and support needs.

As part of a wider update on the current usage of ‘short breaks’, councillors were told that Covid-19 had “brought about significant changes”.

“From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the ACS’ short breaks service saw a significant reduction in attendance and bookings across all settings,” says the report.

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“During the lockdown period, short breaks continued to provide essential support to prevent carer breakdown, and to support individuals for whom attendance was essential due to their care and support needs.

“Many families chose not to use the service throughout and beyond the lockdown period. Following this drop-off in bookings, September and October has seen gradual increases in booking and attendance.”

The report noted that it may be necessary to reduce capacity at the centres to meet government guidance and provide a Covid-safe environment for short breaks.

But it suggested that even if a 25 per cent reduction was required there would still be capacity available.

Data attached to the report suggested that in that ‘unlikely’ worst case scenario there could be a shortfall of between 164 and 357 nights of ‘in-house’ provision across a 12-month period.

But it pointed to the number of people opting for ‘alternative services’, such as moving to supported living.

And it suggested that should a similar trend continue there would be sufficient capacity available even in the ‘worst case scenario’.