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Southwell Minster View children's home recommended for closure by Nottinghamshire County Council despite assurances to the contrary

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Families of some of Nottinghamshire's most vulnerable children have said they are on their knees as the county council looks poised to renege on its promise not to close a children's home.

Asmaa Abdel-Galil is the mother of Fifi, one of four special needs children who remained at Southwell's Minster View before it was temporarily closed in November. Fifi has autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and is non-verbal.

Asmaa was hoping the home would re-open so her daughter, who loved her time there, could return after being placed in a Leicestershire facility where she is far from comfortable and only sees her family at the weekend.

Minster View (4792648)
Minster View (4792648)

She said another young person had been shipped out of the home at short notice to two failed placements, leaving them with only one option of residential care in Wales.

"It is really upsetting and disappointing to hear Nottinghamshire County Council is looking to close the home, they lied to us you know," said Asmaa.

"It shows they don't care about disabled children at all, they've ignored us completely and none of this was in the children's interests.

County Hall. (51927417)
County Hall. (51927417)

"My daughter is not settling, she is up and down and keeps having a lot of problems as she is in Leicester now.

"At Minster View the children used to go on trips most days and the staff were brilliant. Fifi was really happy at Minster View and so were the other kids."

Asmaa said there was no proper transition for the children when told by the council to leave.

"It was a shock for Fifi and us and she was not coping well," she said. "I was crying everyday because it was so difficult for the family."

Nottinghamshire County Council closed Minster View in November last year over what it said was an emerging picture that the care had not always been of the highest quality.

It gave the Advertiser, and parents of the children, consistent assurances that the authority had no plans to permanently close it.

However, on December 13, members of the county council's children and young people's committee will be asked to vote for an officer's recommendation to shut the home permanently.

The Advertiser was invited to a meeting with service director for youth, families and social work Steve Edwards and committee chairman Tracey Taylor to discuss the matter. It took place before the families had been informed of the potential forever closure of Minster View.

Tracey Taylor. (52750274)
Tracey Taylor. (52750274)

Asked why the council had gone back on its word, Mr Edwards said: "The building is really old, it's an old institution, it has four beds and we had staffing provision for up to seven children. It wasn't an easy building to have clear management oversight with the corridors and annexes off.

"So we (the council) asked ourselves a question: Is this the best accommodation that we can provide for the children with learning disabilities who need residential care? And we've concluded that building isn't the right building for children with learning difficulties."

Mr Edwards said the council would replace the facility with higher-quality and more homely provisions for Nottinghamshire children, and that alternative placements for the former Minster View children could be looked at.

Mr Edwards is pictured top left.
Mr Edwards is pictured top left.

"I don't think that will be the case because the children are now settled," he said. "But that's a conversation we'll have with the parents."

Mr Edwards said the council had been contemplating closing the home for last six to nine months.

Asked if the council had told the Advertiser otherwise during that period of reflection during that time, he said: "Yes."

Mrs Taylor said there was concern over how much it cost annually to operate Minster View, a total of £1,685,000, compared to what a three to four-bed home should cost — around £890,000.

County Hall (51983907)
County Hall (51983907)

Mr Edwards said: "I think it's absolutely right when the council is spending £1.7m a year on Minster View that it asks itself 'is it doing the best for children and can we do better?' This committee report highlights that I think we can do better and we don't need to provide for as many children."

Asked if closing Minster View was a costing-saving exercise, Mr Edwards said: "No, it's not the building to sell in that context. It's right next to the National Trust property, the workhouse, and you can't do anything to it because of planning permission. It's not worth a lot of money."

Mrs Taylor added: "We had no prior intention to not re-open Minster View, its closure always has and was temporary through circumstances. This is not a falsehood.

"The children who moved out a year ago have been settled into other homes and I don't know whether any of those families would want their child to go back."

Mr Edwards said: "You're absolutely right, I think we did turn those children's lives upside down. If I thought we could have avoided that, we would have done.

"I've apologised to the parents for the distress and disruption we caused those children. I'm genuinely sorry."

Another parent who had a child at Minster View said one of the other boys has since had two failed placements and has been back in the family home for the past 14 weeks.

"It has been horrendous for the family," they said. "Because the child is now older, he's got a lot more difficult to deal with and it is hard to get other placements to take him on.

"The dad has had to take time off work to look after him and the family are on their knees. They had always hoped they'd be able to move their child back into Minster View.

"They have been begging the council for a placement but are now in the process of having to look for one in Wales.

"He still cries and points in the direction of Minster View when they are in the area. The family have even had to throw his memory books away because it causes him too much distress looking at them.

"He wants to go back. Why is the council now willing to send him to Wales and spend thousands of pounds?

"This has caused serious damage to the children and you can't even imagine the amount of stress and financial stress it has caused."

Council documents seen by the Advertiser state: "Minster View as a venue for a residential children’s home is too large, has an institutionalised feel and limits the ability to provide oversight of the quality of care. The needs of children needing residential placements and the availability of placements in the external market that provide high quality and value for money is good."

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