Decision to close Nascot Lawn quashed by High Court

The outside of Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Photo: Danny Loo.

The outside of Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

The decision to close Nascot Lawn has been quashed by the High Court this morning.

Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) decided to pull £650k of funding from the Watford respite centre last autumn.

The parents of the children with disabilities and learning difficulties who attended the centre then successfully appealed to the High Court to review HVCCG’s decision under equalities and human rights legislation and the argument HVCCG had not carried out a proper consultation with families.

Today the parents learned their appeal was successful and HVCCG will have to go back and discuss their decision with stakeholders such as Herts County Council.

This means the centre can stay open for the time being.

The CCG’s chair Dr Nicholas Small said: “This decision we made back in November, to stop funding services at Nascot Lawn, was one of the hardest we have had to make as a board and we did this in the context of a very challenging financial environment, having to assess priorities in order to meet the financial requirements placed on us by law. That financial challenge continues.”

HVCCG has to cut £45m this year, part of which was going to be funded by pulling funding from Nascot Lawn.

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Dr Small continued: “What we now need to do, in acknowledgment of the judge’s ruling, is to take time over the next six weeks to formally consult with our colleagues at the council in the format the court has prescribed. We have started that process. Our consultation will remain thorough and genuine and results will be considered at a Herts Valleys CCG meeting in May.

“We do also need to acknowledge the five grounds on which the judge ruled in our favour. He made a particular point of noting Herts Valleys CCG had carried out proper and appropriate public involvement.

“He stated we had comprehensively assessed the needs of those children using the service, contrary to what had been claimed. The judge also stated criticisms and allegations we had contravened key pieces of legislation were not correct and he was keen to ensure his view was set out in full on those points.

“So, for example, he has ruled we fully met our obligations under equalities law and the legislation on human rights and the rights of children.

“Whatever the outcome of this consultation and new decision, we continue to be concerned for the children and families who use Nascot Lawn respite services.

“Having made the decision last November, we had hoped this judicial review would bring the matter to a conclusion. We are committed to ensuring we comply with the judge’s ruling in full and we are keen to resolve this as soon as possible, so a greater level of certainty can be provided particularly to the children and their families.

“In any event this judicial decision means that the service will be funded on the current basis until at least August 2018.”

The judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, said the CCG must comply with its legal duty by formally consulting with Herts County Council.

If the two bodies cannot agree on the future of the centre, the council can refer the matter to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Alex Rook from Irwin Mitchell, which represented the families, said: “Ever since the CCG announced its intention to withdraw funding for Nascot Lawn the families have shown great strength and determination to fight this decision, not once but twice.

“Despite concerns having been raised numerous times about the legality of the decision, the CCG continued to press ahead with its plans, meaning the families had no alternative but to take their fight to the High Court.

“We have always argued on their behalf the CCG and the local authority should work together to decide how they can continue to operate this vital community service and are delighted that the court has today endorsed this view.

“The CCG has twice been told by the High Court following our submissions its actions were unlawful and the decision to withdraw funding from Nascot Lawn has been quashed for a second time. We only hope this time the CCG co-operates with the county council to ensure that Nascot Lawn stays open.”

Keep checking for more reaction and developments as they happen.