Wirral Counil’s steps back from care home closure plans

WIRRAL council has backed down from part of its care home closure plans just days before a court hearing challenging the proposals.

The authority is due to fight an injunction against the closure of respite centre Fernleigh brought by one of its long- term users.

However, the council has now said there is “a small shortfall in specialist respite care for people with learning disabilities, or for clients with short-term ‘crisis’ mental health needs”.

It said for this reason Fernleigh will remain open while it explores options and carries out a consultation exercise.

However, the authority said it still plans to press on with other closures. A report to be presented to Wirral council’s ruling cabinet this week says there is sufficient interest and capacity from good-quality providers of residential and nursing home care, intermediate care and respite care to accommodate services currently being provided to older people and people with learning disabilities at Meadowcroft, Pensall, Poulton, Manor Road and Mapleholme.

Howard Cooper, interim director of adult social services, said: “To ensure continuity of care, we will provide some respite service at Sylvandale and Girtrell Court, and will also work in partnership with NHS Wirral to supply in-house provision for people who need specialist short-term mental health care at Fernleigh, which will remain open while options are explored and consulted upon.”

The council insists the decision is not related to the court case being brought by Steve Hornby, of Eastham, who has used Fernleigh for many years. The case is due to be heard this week.

The authority said all other transition arrangements for respite provision will continue as normal, moving towards an official changeover date of March 31.

Care plans for people who use respite care will be completed this week.

The next group of service users who will receive care plans will be those who use Supported Living services, which are due to change to new providers on May 31.

Cllr Bob Moon, cabinet member for social care, said they had sought to provide a “seamless transition” for those who use the services.

But he said: “Given that there is some uncertainty over the capacity of the market to provide these very specialist services to people with mental health problems, we need to continue to offer some in house service provision while options are explored.”

Labour’s Moira McLaughlinn said she had warned the care at Fernleigh was highly specialised and unlikely to be found in the private sector. She added: “They have had a re-think, as we asked them.”