D-Day For Future Of Southampton Care Homes

THE lives of elderly residents could be at risk if Tory council leaders today agree to close two care homes says a pensioners’ group.

Councillors will tonight be asked to close the council’s 33-bed Birch Lawn care home in Sholing and the 55-bed White-haven Lodge in Millbrook to save £500,000. They will be replaced by private care.

The plan has prompted anger from residents, relatives and unions, who will later stage a demonstration and hand in a 4,500 signature petition.

Southampton Pensioners’ Forum (SPF) secretary Don Harper warned moving the residents could have devastating health effects.

He said: “It can be so traumatic and stressful to make these people move. I don’t think all the residents would make it if these closures took place.

“If these people are forced to move I think the stress may kill some of them.”

The Daily Echo can reveal that three people have died at Whitehaven since the closure announcement at the end of August following a secret review. Eleven have died at the home over the past year.

The plan to close both the council’s residential homes would see 62 residents moved out over the next 18 months, 88 beds would be lost and 69 staff would be out of work.

Cabinet member for adult social care Ivan White, who is recommending the closure, said demand for residential care homes has fallen by over 20 per cent in the past five years. It would accelerate as more people wanted to stay at home for longer.

Residents would get the same standard of care in the private sector – but it would be about £50 a week cheaper.

One council worker at Birch Lawn told the Echo: “The residents will not get the same level of care. I’m not saying that other care homes are not well run but I believe at council run homes there is more emphasis on the welfare of the residents than on profit. I’m not confident that that is true in all private homes.”

Age Concern Southampton chief officer Sandra Smith said: “The key word here is home. These people consider these places home and it is wrong that they may be forced to move.

“More people might want to be treated at home they should have right to choose what is best for them.”

Cllr White extended a consultation period by a month after public outcry.

MPs John Denham and Alan Whitehead have branded the consultation a sham and said closure should only be considered if the alternative was better. Mr Whitehead said some public homes act as a quality “yardstick” for private homes.

Council valuations show it could net £1.5m from the sale of the land the two homes. The council claims the homes already need £400,000 of repairs.