Care homes could close during coronavirus outbreak

Thursday, March 19th, 2020 4:13pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Seven council-run care homes in Derbyshire - including Goyt Valley House in New Mills - could be closed during the Covid-19 pandemic due to "electrical safety issues" – whether a consultation on their future is postponed or not.

Campaigners claim that Derbyshire County Council “doesn’t care” and should “think twice” for not putting back a consultation on plans to close the homes.

Hundreds of residents were due to gather yesterday for a mass protest outside County Hall in Matlock over the proposed closures.

However, the full council meeting which the protest was to take place before was cancelled by the authority due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Campaigners have called for the consultation – which is due to end on Friday, April 24 – to be postponed

Since the meeting was called off, the council has also cancelled the four remaining public consultation events in Alfreton, Borrowash, Clowne and Shirebrook, too.

When asked if the council would postpone the whole consultation, a council spokesperson said: “As we have had to cancel library drop-in sessions this week, we are putting in place additional ways to enable people to have their say to allow the consultation to continue.

“In the first instance this includes the offer of telephone conversations with members of the engagement team.”

Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the Conservative authority, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that an “unintended consequence” of postponing the consultation “is that there is a danger that some of those care homes could be closed anyway because the electrical safety issues they have are such that we have to address them within a time limited window”.

He continued: “So we have to carefully consider if postponing the consultation is the right thing to do.”

Union GMB was one of the main organisers behind the planned protest, coordinating a growing number of grass-roots campaign groups.

Finbar Bowie, regional organiser for GMB, said: “Derbyshire County Council needs to think twice and show a bit of care here.

“Continuing the consultation into care home closures, when care workers and families are under so much pressure as it is, would send the wrong message.

“Derbyshire’s care workers are at the front line of keeping the most vulnerable in our communities safe.

“Local people know this, families and residents know this. So why aren’t Derbyshire County Councillors listening?

“The GMB is calling on Derbyshire County Council to give them the respect and support they deserve at this difficult time.”

Jon Smith, GMB organiser, said: “At a time of a mass pandemic only Derbyshire County Council could think it’s a good idea to close down elderly care home beds.”

Lynne Thornley’s step-father, Pete Watkins, is a 97-year-old Arnhem veteran living at Beechcroft care home in West Hallam, one of the seven council care homes threatened by closure.

She told the LDRS: “I am totally devastated. I think it is really shocking and shows the lack of care the council has for the people in those homes, at a time of national crisis when care homes are stretched and essential visitors only are allowed to care homes too.

“It is not fair and they don’t care.

“The consultation should be postponed. We can’t attend public meetings and we can’t lobby councillors.

“Care homes and residents shouldn’t have to be worrying about this on top of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The county council currently has 23 care homes in total – though it is proposing to close seven of these due to disrepair and a perceived reducing need for residential care.

Four of these, in Brimington, Clowne, Sandiacre and West Hallam, could close from this September.

A further three, in Bakewell, New Mills and Tibshelf, could close from September 2021.

It is thought that around 195 residents will be affected by the potential care home closures, along with 311 members of staff.

Residents can give their views on the planned care home closures online at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/care-home-review

They can also email their comments to telladultcare@derbyshire.gov.uk or write to the Stakeholder and Engagement Team, Adult Social Care, County Hall, Matlock, DE4 3AG. Residents can also call 01629 531307 to request a paper copy of the consultation questionnaire.

Anyone unable to use any of these options or for those who would like the opportunity to have a discussion with a member of staff please call 01629 531307 or email telladultcare@derbyshire.gov.uk to book a telephone consultation session.

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