Town councils demand answers over Devon care cuts

13:43 08 July 2014

Oakwell at Bickington is scheduled for closure in spring 2015.

Oakwell at Bickington is scheduled for closure in spring 2015.

Archant

Barnstaple and South Molton seek explanation as several care homes and day centres face closure.

QUESTIONS have been asked of Devon County Council’s decision to cut back on care homes and day centres by North Devon town councils – who are discussing a unified response to the closure of services.

At an emotionally-charged Barnstaple Town Council meeting on Monday, members of the public were given the chance to speak about the decision.

Councillor Ian Roome brought a motion calling on the town clerk to write an open letter to the county council, asking for the cabinet member for adult social care and health services to attend a meeting to discuss the changes.

And following an almost-unanimous vote in favour of the motion, mayor Val Elkins announced that mayors from across the North Devon and Torridge districts would meet to discuss writing to the county and Westminster to oppose the closure of local services.

Several local residents attended to speak on the plans, including Julie Glover, whose mum is at the Oakwell care home.

“When I first heard about what’s happening at Oakwell, I thought it was some bizarre joke,” she said.

“My mum is in the latter stages of dementia and we’ve had several phone calls telling us my mum had less than 24 hours to live but she’s fought to live.

“The people at Oakwell know everything about her and it’s little things with familiarity like the smell of the fabric conditioner which make a difference. Without that familiarity, she will deteriorate – you could send her to Buckingham Palace and it wouldn’t help.

“Oakwell is fantastic and it should be being used as a blueprint, not getting shut down.”

Cllr Roome said the county council’s decision to cut back on provision showed a ‘lack of respect for democracy’, and also accused them of taking the decision ‘in haste and with insufficient consultation’ after members of the public were unable to speak at a crucial meeting on June 26.

With the exception of Devon County Councillor John Matthews, councillors were united in opposing the cuts.

Under the proposals, Oakwell, Rosebank, Silverhill, Tarka, Greenfields and Oasis will all be under one roof in a new ‘integrated service’.

Elsewhere, the council intends to close Beech House in South Molton, Burrow House in Ilfracombe, Lydiate Lodge at Lynton, Fairlea in Northam and Oakwell at Bickington.

Of the 11 day centres, five will go – Springfield and Quayside in Bideford; Beech House in South Molton; Burrow House in Ilfracombe; and a hub at the Plough in Torrington.

In South Molton, town clerk Malcolm Gingell has written to county council chief executive Phil Norrey on behalf of the council, expressing concern for the residents of Beech House.

Mr Gingell’s letter highlighted that Beech House covers a large rural area, and labelled the road network to travel to other facilities ‘very limited and in a poor state of repair’.

The letter also questioned the county’s decision to build a youth resource centre three years ago – costing around £800,000 – which could soon face closure.

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