Families Care Home Plan Fury

Dunmow families are campaigning to close a legal loophole which could allow care homes to operate without regular inspections after plans were announced for a mental health home in their neighbourhood.

Residents in Oakwood Park are calling for a change in the law after neighbours Lucia and Ronnie Benyu revealed plans to use their Worrin Road home to care for mentally-ill patients.

The couple applied to Uttlesford District Council last week for a certificate of lawfulness, which considers the legal uses of a building.

If granted they could house up to six 18 to 65-year-olds with varying mental health issues including psychosis, behavioural problems, learning difficulties and drug and alcohol-related history and help them develop living skills.

But residents were outraged to discover the home would not need to be registered with the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) if patients would be living mainly independently, as a family, despite requiring an element of care.

They have formed a group through Oakwood Park Residents Association and have collected more than 200 signatures opposing the application.

They also plan to lobby Parliament for a change in the law.

Mother of three Ann Potgeiter, 39, of Durrand Close, said: “This is a flood gate opening for the whole of England and it would not just be homes for people with mental health issues.

“It could be children’s homes or residential homes.”

They are being backed by Saffron Walden MP, Sir Alan Haselhurst, who said it was extraordinary this legal technicality had not been discovered before.

He said: “I find it amazing that something like this could crop up now, having never cropped up before.

“Certainly there is a public policy to provide sheltered accommodation in the community for people emerging from a structured mental health regime and that’s normally done by social services or by one of the health trusts.

“What no-one seems to have thought of is an individual householder taking four to six people into their property.”

Residents have also voiced concerns about how patients will be assessed.

Mr and Mrs Benyu claim all Roshan House residents will be referred by social services, but a spokesperson for Essex County Council said this would not be possible unless the home was CSCI-registered.

A spokesperson said: “The only way adult social services would use a facility like that would be if it was registered with the Commission for Social Care Inspection because obviously we would have to ensure that any service we use would be of the correct provision.”