A children's charity in Watford found itself in the national spotlight this morning in a row over funding for respite care.

The BBC Breakfast cameras visited Watford Mencap Children's Centre, at The Lemarie Centre, in St Albans Road, where parents spoke about the loss of one of its most popular facilities.

A Saturday club provided by the charity closed in December after £8,000 worth of funding was cut by Hertfordshire County Council.

The money would have paid for the club for three months and gave parents six hours of free time to do things they could not do while looking after their disabled children.

Respite care hit the headlines this week when a mother from Gloucestershire said she would put her severely disabled daughter into full-time care after she became unable to “cope” with just six hours respite per week.

Bonita Davis, from Elstree, has visited the Watford Mencap Children's Centre with her son Eli, nine, for three years.

“The Saturday club was offered once every month but they've completely cut that,” she said.

“In that time I was able to teach my daughter to ride a bike, spend time with my other children, things people take for granted. It gave us a bit of freedom to act as a normal family for six hours.

“I feel like it's been taken from us. It was a service that was fantastic. It's really sad, really upsetting.”

Jenny Young, from Ganders Ash, Leavesden, used to bring her seven-year-old son Ryan to the Saturday club, alongside visits to Mencap's after-school sessions.

“I really miss it,” she said. “Because our children take a mini-bus to school, we [parents] cannot build up school gate relationships. Coming here and meeting other mums was the same for us. It can be incredibly isolating.

“I feel it's not just losing those six hours, it's like losing a family. It's a support network.”

Joanne Callender, from St James, Road, Watford, has two autistic sons, Oliver, ten, and Jake 11.

She said: “Mencap celebrate their achievements but they're also there to hold your hand when you need it the most.”

In addition to the Saturday club cuts, Veronica Chamberlain, Watford Mencap funding manager, said the charity could also be hit by futher cuts Letters from Hertfordshire County Council said it could be subjected to a loss of 20 per cent of its children's service funding and 25 per cent cuts to its adult funding, which could total £500,000.

Veronica said: “If we lost money, we would have to look at cutting services. We cannot sustain that cut. We're doing everything we can in terms of making savings – double-sided photocopying, turning lights off.

“We're doing our best to make savings and generate income but the fact remains the majority of our money comes from the county council.”

Hertfordshire County Council representative Nuala Milbourn said the withdrawal of money from the Mencap Saturday club was due to a Government decision to cut funding.

She said: “The amount that the budget was reduced by was £8,000. We are continuing to ensure that the needs of families who attend the Watford Mencap Saturday Club are met through the provision of other services.

“We have just finalised our budgets for next year and at this stage do not anticipate any further reduction of their budget.”

She said the council had “greatly increased” provision of short breaks for disabled children and their families since 2007/08.

This includes services such as direct payments, holiday play schemes, residential services, home care and leisure activities.

Ms Milbourn said: “We will continue to provide increased funding so that we can deliver the greater level and range of services.

“Over the past three years we have really valued the involvement of parents, carers and young people in the planning and decision making of where and how our services are delivered. We plan to maintain their full involvement in the future.

“In addition to the increased range and volume of short break services, we are very excited about the development of a specialist adventure playground in Hertfordshire, as this was something parents and carers said they wanted more than anything for their children.

“This will further enhance our range of specialist services and provide additional opportunities for young people and their families.

“Since 2008/09, there has been an overall increase in short break services of 79 per cent. The authority spends a total of £8million each year on short break services for disabled young people and their families.

“Hertfordshire County Council is committed to supporting the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) and we have developed a short-term sustainability fund to support all VCS providers that experienced a reduction in funding. , Watford Mencap may apply for this funding to sustain their Saturday Club.

“Longer term, through organisational change, we are planning to make further funds available to support the VCS to deliver targeted services for an 18 month period, starting in October 2011.”