Future of Forres care home hangs in the balance

SPECULATION continues to surround the future of the Taigh Farrais care home in Forres. Rumours have reached the offices of ‘The Forres Gazette’ that the facility is on the verge of closure as Moray Council reviews its policy on provision of care to disabled people.

A long-time user of Taigh Farrais, who lives in Aberdeen, told the ‘Gazette’ that on her last visit, staff were looking for new jobs and told her it could close by November.

“I got such a shock,” she said. “It is a super centre, and going there was an absolute godsend for me. I really looked forward to it, as we were looked after so well.

“Not many places deal with people with physical disabilities. It is a very valuable facility, and people come from as far as the south of Scotland.”

She added that she used to have her visits to the facility funded by her local council, but following cutbacks, must now pay her own costs.

Taigh Farrais is run by charity Grampian Living Options, which owns two other care homes in the North-east.

It receives an annual council core-funding subsidy, and weekly fees paid out of Moray Council’s care management budget, by other councils or by individual residents.

At present, around 75% of its users are from outside Moray. A council spokesman said that as these users’ local authorities do not contribute to its core funding, Taigh Farrais needs a “very high subsidy from Moray Council”.

This funding is in place until 2011, but the authority is currently examining different options for the future of respite in Moray. These will be put to a committee meeting in August.

The spokesman said: “The main users of Taigh Farrais are Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, with a tiny minority from Highland and one lady from Renfrewshire. The current funding of £153,000 is in place until next March.”

He also confirmed the council’s position on the facility. “Our officers are working with colleagues in Aberdeenshire Council and other local authorities whose residents use the facility to find a way of maintaining the service,” he said.

“We will continue to ensure that respite is available to all those who need it. All options will be considered, and proposals will be put to elected members for consideration.”

Charles McKerron, service manager for the council, held meetings with the facility’s users last month to discuss the future of respite care.

One Elgin man who suffers from multiple sclerosis attended the meeting. Although he did not want to be named, he said he learned much from the discussion.

“It costs about £1,000 a week to keep someone at Taigh Farrais,” he said. “Moray Council can no longer afford to back people from other areas.

“Taigh Farrais will still be available to people in Moray, but officers will need to arrange it for more disabled people from Moray to use the facility. Only a quarter of the people who currently use it are from Moray, and that has to change.”

He also praised Taigh Farrais, saying it provided specialist care for his disability which could not be matched in any other facility in Moray.

“It’s a vital service for me; it takes the pressure off my family and gives them a break,” he said.

Staff at Taigh Farrais were contacted by the ‘Gazette’ several times, but at the time of going to press had not commented on the speculation.