ANGER is brewing over plans to close seven care homes across County Durham.
Relatives of residents and staff at the homes are planning protests while a pensioners’ representative has accused those who voted to close the centres of “abdicating their responsibility to the electorate”.
Sean Fahey, secretary of the North East Pensioners Association, accused Durham County Council leader Simon Henig and his Cabinet members of “failing those who put them in office” after they unanimously agreed to close the homes at a meeting last week.
He said: “They have abdicated their responsibility to the electorate and allowed themselves to be dictated to by the bean counters, accountants responsible for making sure the figures balance and not the human consequences.
“We all know that local authorities have to tighten their belts, but why is it always the most vulnerable in society – those who most need the support – who are the first to suffer?
“These councillors were elected to protect the vulnerable, and they have shirked from their responsibilities.
“They argued the private sector would have to look after them in future. Like commodities, the elderly are to be parcelled off to the market place for disposal.”
Coun Nigel Martin, the Liberal Democrat leader, agreed. “The council needs to consider in more detail the growing needs of elderly residents in County Durham and produce a long-term plan that puts old people first, rather than producing an ill-thought-out plan with more emphasis on money saving than caring for people,” he said.
This Wednesday, before a full council meeting at Aykley Heads, Durham, residents and staff of the seven care homes condemned by the council will stage a protest against the decision.
More than 100 elderly residents, which includes two aged 105, are to be moved against their will.
The seven homes to be axed are: Manor House, Annfield Plain; Lynwood House, Lanchester; Glendale House, Blackhall; Shafto House, Newton Aycliffe; Stanfield House, Stanley; Hackworth House, Shildon and East Green in West Auckland.
Council leader Simon Henig described the £35m bill over 10 years to save the homes as disproportionate and unaffordable without decimating other council services.
“I take no pleasure at all in the decision that now must be made,” said Coun Henig.
“Like those who signed petitions, I am a believer in state-run facilities.
“However, I am also under no illusions that state-run facilities are also often more expensive for taxpayers.”
Solicitor Yvonne Hossack, representing some of the homes’ residents and their families, said the move could yet be challenged.
She is preparing to ask medical professionals to investigate the likely impact on her clients of moving them out of their homes.
If the experts conclude the disruption could endanger their lives, the council could be challenged to rethink, she said.
A moving story
DURHAM County Council said the removal of 105 elderly residents from their homes would be managed "with the needs, comfort and safety of residents as the prime concern".
But one person feels very little help has been forthcoming
Retired railway worker Frankie Ginty, 74, faced the heartache of putting his beloved wife Kathleen into a residential home 19 months ago when her dementia became too much to manage. Now has to find her somewhere else to live.
He has been given a piece of paper with a list of available care homes in the private sector for Kathleen. The ones which can look after residents with dementia were highlighted.
At present he can visit Kathleen every day at Manor House in Annfield Plain because his home, in South View, is just five minutes walk away. However, the nearest alternatives will be a few miles away.
"When she went into Manor House it was the first time we had been separated in more than 40 years of marriage," Frankie said
"At least I could visit her every day. Now I don’t know where she will end up. There are only a handful of places which can look after residents with dementia and I have been handed a list of those places.
"I don’t drive and rely on my bus pass, but I’m getting no younger.
"In the winter weather it is going to be harder to visit her every day if she has to move away from Annfield Plain, which seems likely."