Short-Notice Care Home Closure Is ‘Appalling’ Says Council

Lancashire Social Services have branded the closure of a care home at six hours notice ‘appalling’ – and admitted they had no idea it was shutting.

The news came as social care watchdogs revealed they were set to force Astley House, in Whitehall Road, Darwen, to close over serious concerns about standards. Fifteen elderly women, some who were suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, were told they had to leave by 8pm on Tuesday.

Council bosses and care watchdogs the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) said they had been told the care provider Brightcrest Ltd had gone into receivership.

The CSCI has revealed it had started proceedings to close down the home after a poor inspection on March 1. It said Brightcrest Ltd was legally required to tell the CSCI if the business was likely to cease being financially viable within six months, but said it had not.

Last Thursday, talks had taken place between the home and Blackburn with Darwen Council over the inspection report. Social services staff said that managers of the Astley House told them they were keen to improve.

Coun David Foster, executive member for social services, said the council had been ready to support the home and residents. He said: “I am appalled at the way in which this home has closed.

“We have coped remarkably well in the very short time we have had to respond but it is a shame this situation has arisen the way it has, especially when we have been trying to help the home improve. Our sympathy is with the people who have been turned out of their homes and we are doing all we can to help them.”

Steven Sloss, director of social services, said the closure was a “complete surprise”. He said: “Even as late as Friday, we were being told that the home was set to make the necessary improvements and continue. There was no suggestion of any plans to close.

“My thanks go to the staff who worked hard to get the best results possible for people under the circumstances. Our support will continue for as long as necessary.”

Social services had been advising relatives of prospective residents to view the inspection report before sending their relatives there.

The council said staff were told at 10am on Tuesday the home was closing then the owners telephoned to say the business was going in receivership and they had just hours to move the vulnerable women out.

Families were called at about 2pm and Darwen-based social workers, a contracts team and transport staff moved down to the home. Residents were helped into other homes, some temporarily, by 10pm, the council said.

Eric Halsall, 75, of Sandy Lane said his mother-in-law, 84-year-old Sarah Shannon, had been seriously affected by being moved out. He said: “She’s been there for four years and that’s her home. That’s all she knows. She had friends there as well. It was like a family and she’s been taken out of it.”

Alan Brocklebank, of Harwood Street in Darwen, took his mum 79-year-old Jenny Brocklebank to Lindon House in Blackburn. He said: “My wife and her sister have been badly affected emotionally. We have had contact with Lindon House and they have said my mum and the other lady had a good night and she said she was surprised at how well they have settled in, but the relatives are still upset.”