Fears for elderly residents if North Devon’s care homes close
12:04 19 February 2014
Devon County Council’s plans to stop providing residential care met with shock and dismay by anxious relatives.
WORRIED relatives have been left fearing for the future of their elderly loved ones after the announcement of proposals to close Devon County Council run care homes.
A 45-day consultation has begun on proposals to ‘cease providing residential care’ at Beech House in South Molton, Burrow House in Ilfracombe, Lydiate Lodge at Lynton, Fairlea in Northam plus Oakwell at Bickington and commission it from the private sector instead.
The North Devon Gazette understands the closure of Oakwell alone could mean the loss of around 50 jobs.
It is a double shock for those with parents and relatives in the various homes, following days after the revelation the council is also considering closing 11 North Devon day centres for the elderly or disabled.
People with relatives at the 20-bed Oakwell Home in Bickington, Barnstaple, were stunned when an impersonal letter informing them of the plan arrived on Tuesday of last week.
Pamela Jewitt, whose 94-year-old mother Queenie has been at the home for three years, fears being moved somewhere else will prove too much for many of the frail residents, who all suffer from a form of dementia.
“It means having to rehome them, which is going to be very traumatic for them because of their illness. My mother is 95 this year and she is quite frail, sometimes she knows me, sometimes she doesn’t,” she said.
“Some of them have no family at all, or they live away, and the only faces they recognise are their carers. So not only are they taking them away from their home, they’re taking them from carers they trust, which is going to make their dementia worse.
“It has all been done very coldly and underhanded. The staff were only told the afternoon before that relatives would be receiving a letter in the morning.”
A busy home
Miss Jewitt said up until the shock announcement, there had even been talk of expanding Oakwell because of the ever growing demand for specialist dementia facilities.
It offers a mix of residential and respite care, plus an ‘intermediate’ service acting as a halfway house for elderly people coming out of hospital who need physiotherapy or other rehabilitation services before they can go home.
The beds are almost always full and there are currently 13 long term residents, not including those in respite or intermediate care.
On top of this another 32 people in the community make daily use of the day centre, a service constantly described as a ‘lifeline’ by many.
“They do tremendous work here, especially in the day care. One lady told me she just does not know how she will cope with her mother’s illness 24 hours a day without the support of day and respite care,” added Miss Jewitt.
“She said: ‘I’m not suicidal right now, but I just feel that if I can’t cope I will have to leave my mum somewhere and then ring them up to tell them’.”
‘No decision yet’ claims council...
A spokesman for Devon County Council said no decisions had been made and would not until the consultation ended.
They added: “Private sector care homes already provide residential care to 85 per cent of the people in Devon whose care is publicly funded by the council. Just 15 per cent are cared for in the county council’s own homes. The proposal, if agreed, would mean the council would stop directly providing residential care for older people, and instead it would commission – as it already does already - more from the private sector.
“There would be no change to eligibility, so anyone who is entitled to receive support by the council would continue to be supported.
“If we decide to cease providing residential care ourselves and instead to use the private sector, any change would have to be made over a period of time, on case by case basis that is sensitive to people’s needs.”
They said council policy was to offer support to staff, seeking to avoid redundancies where possible and help them look for opportunities for redeployment.
* People who wish to respond to the consultation can do so by clicking here