Wirral Council closing five care homes to save £2.7million

FIVE council-run care homes in Wirral are to close to save the authority £2.7m.

The homes affected – Maplehome in Birkenhead, Pensall House in Pensby, Poulton House in Wallasey, Meadowcroft in Bromborough and Fernleigh in Leasowe – all provide intermediate or respite care and will shut by March 31.

A four-bed residential home, Manor Road in Wallasey, is also closing.

Seven people living permanently in the homes are being re-housed.

Wirral Council says the decision was based on priorities set by the public following the council’s massive consultation exercise last year.

Families have been told “appropriate support” will continue to be provided by “appropriate voluntary or independent organisations”.

But the plan could face a legal challenge from a leading charity for people with learning disabilities.

The council has also been criticised by carers, who said families were only told about the closures this month and should have had more notice.

Gwen Seller, chair of Wirral Mencap, said the charity had joined forces with mental health organisation Family Tree, to try to stop the closure of Maplehome and Fernleigh.

Maplehome, which is due to close on February 25, provides respite for adults with learning difficulties while Fernleigh is a respite service for adults with mental health problems.

She said: “We are writing to all elected members to ask them to delay closure of both respite services because we believe the policy decision taken in December was taken on the basis of a flawed process – the Wirral Your Future questionnaire.,

“We also believe the speed of implementation of the closures precludes any reasoned or meaningful discussion with service users and their families about how their needs will be met.

“Currently there are no viable respite alternatives and there are many unanswered questions around access to crisis beds for both groups or whether current respite needs will be met in full through personalised budgets. We have taken legal advice and are waiting to hear if we can make a legal challenge against the closures.”

Staff at the homes have been offered voluntary redundancy and the council said a “considerable number” – understood to be around 60% – had taken up the offer.

All remaining staff will be re-deployed to other roles.

One woman from Heswall, who asked not to be named, cares for her daughter, who has six weeks of respite care at Maplehome every year.

She said: “We book our respite 12 months in advance and people who have got something booked in after February really don’t know where they’re going to go.

“We’re all older parents and many are in their 70s like my husband and I. We’re all caring for grown-up children in their 40s and 50s and we need to take those breaks.

“The people who need respite care are vulnerable. The speed and the way it’s being done has caused a lot of people to panic.”

The recommendation passed to councillors through the Wirral’s Future consultation was that the council should stop “directly providing residential and respite care.”

It continued: “It is instead suggested that these services should be procured from the private and voluntary sector, who will be stringently quality controlled in order to provide the service at identical or improved quality, at a lower cost.”

Other changes to adult social services, saving a total of £10m this year, include a reduction in fees paid to care homes, to bring Wirral in line with other councils.

Labour leader Councillor Steve Foulkes said he believed Wirral’s Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition had rushed into the closures.

He said: “It’s been done on a wing and a prayer. The claim that we have a voluntary sector ready, willing and able to take over is a myth.”

A spokesman for Wirral Council said: “We are not making any members of staff redundant through these proposals. They have chosen to leave through EVR (early voluntary retirement) or severance.

“Remaining staff will be offered redeployment elsewhere in the council. This does mean however that in some cases we would no longer have enough staff to run the home.

“The council has put together a team of skilled professionals who are supporting people to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible and ensure they are able to exercise choice and control over how they receive their future care and support.

“Their needs will always be the most important consideration in determining timescales.”