Letchworth respite care home to close

The action group pictured outside Wilbury House in Letchworth GC

The action group pictured outside Wilbury House in Letchworth GC - Credit: Archant

AN ACTION group which has been campaigning to save a children’s respite care home from closing has lost its battle.

Parents whose children go to Wilbury House in Letchworth GC were told by Herts County Council (HCC) on Monday that the facility will close.

Alternative provisions for the children, who have a range of special needs, will be provided at Jubilee House in Welwyn GC and The Pines in Hertford.

It follows complaints made to HCC over noise and parking over the course of six years, as previously reported by the Comet.

Katrina Nice, whose daughter Victoria, 16, attends Wilbury House, said: “It was very devastating to hear they will be closing Wilbury and the greatest challenge for Victoria is going to be the change in staff and the travel time from Letchworth to either Hertford or Welwyn.

“Wilbury House is a fantastic facility and now I would like to see it used as a residential home for adults with disabilities because it would be a great shame if it was sold off after all the money they have spent on it.”

Parents launched a campaign in January after HCC originally said it would move the services offered at Wilbury House to Ripon Road, Stevenage, because of the complaints.

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The county council has since said the facilities at Ripon Road are not suitable.

An application to renew the lease with Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation was also rejected after it emerged HCC submitted an application to it that lacked detail.

Parents were subsequently given a six-month reprieve, when HCC consulted families and decided whether to re-submit an application to the Heritage Foundation.

Parent Clare Botterman said: “We trusted them [HCC] to take a proper look at the many factors that should inform such an important and significant decision – not least the abject waste of public funds the closure of Wilbury represents.

“However, all they have done is engage in consultation because legally they knew they had fallen down on this aspect of the process.”

The closure means 19 members of staff at Wilbury House face redundancies, with the future of the building also unknown.

Letchworth North West County councillor Lorna Kercher said: “I think the closure of any facility that helps parents with respite is regrettable.

“My concern now is what happens to the home in the future? I believe it should be used either as a permanent home for cared for adults or a sheltered provision for the elderly.”

Defending the decision, Richard Roberts, Cabinet member for children’s services at HCC, said: “In the last few months we have spoken to all the families who use Wilbury House about their care needs. The majority have commented that the residential support at Wilbury House no longer meets their needs in the best way and they would prefer alternative care provision for their children.

“On the basis of this feedback from families, we have decided to close Wilbury House as it appears that the services provided there do not meet the needs of the majority of families. The money currently spent on these services will be used to provide much more effective care for their children and other disabled children across Hertfordshire.

“Wilbury House will not close until every child using this service has an alternative care package in place that is tailored to their individual needs. We will continue to provide residential breaks for the families that still require them.”