Herts county council admits lessons need to be learned from Nascot Lawn

Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Picture: Danny Loo.

Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire parents lost trust, faith and confidence in decision-making about their children, a county council investigation into Nascot Lawn has found.

Currently Nascot Lawn in Watford provides respite care for children with some of the most complex needs in the county.

But it is set to close within weeks, following last year’s controversial decision by Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) to withdraw funding.

On Friday, a specially convened day-long ‘topic group’ at Hertfordshire County Council scrutinised the ongoing transition of children away from Nascot Lawn and the provision of overnight short breaks elsewhere in the county.

The topic group – which heard from parent Nikki Lancaster – recognised parents had lost trust, faith and confidence as a result of the decisions taken.

Nikki told the group the decision to withdraw finding from Nascot Lawn had caused an “unimaginable amount of stress and anxiety”, and she said more notice should have been taken of parents’ views.

She continued: “I hope one of lesson learnt from this sorry situation is that parents’ views should always be taken on board and not ignored or disregarded.

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“Partnership working should also include the views of the people who use and benefit from the service in question.

“After all, they are the people who are most affected and also have the most accurate knowledge of said service, as the Nascot Lawn parents have proved over the last 15 months.”

The topic group recommended parents – who have campaigned against the closure – should be included in the planned review of ‘overnight short break’ (OSB) provision.

The group also recommended OSB provision for under-fives should be reviewed, that there should be consistent provision at all three of the county’s OSB sites and that data sharing should be made as easy as possible.

The county council’s director of specialist services operations, Marion Ingram, said she was “disappointed” to hear families felt they had not been listened to, saying they may not have been able to give them everything they had asked for, but they had done what they could to listen to their concerns.

During the session, the topic group was told that 28 of the 41 children who had been attending Nascot Lawn had now moved on to other OSB facilities. Just one is expected to be accessing services at Nascot Lawn by end of October.

Councillors were also told families and children had “largely been positive about their experience” at the three alternative centres.

During the session, operations director Marion Ingram said the county council was already looking at ways to provide wider and more flexible opportunities, that even included camping trips or supporting families to go to Center Parcs.

The topic group was also updated on the progress of the Section 75 agreement, which would commit HVCCG and East and North Hertfordshire CCG to contributing £100,000-a-year towards overnight short-breaks at council-run centres.

They heard that while the agreement had been backed by each partner in principle, it was still to be finalised.