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Residential homes in Weymouth and Dorchester set to close
RESIDENTIAL homes in Weymouth and Dorchester are set to close.
Around 100 members of staff at Douglas Jackman House in Dorchester and Alexandra Road in Weymouth face uncertain futures after the Dorset County Council-run facilities were declared unfit for purpose.
The two homes currently provide accommodation for 22 adults of varying ages with learning disabilities who need higher support needs.
However, there are ten vacant beds across the two homes and the Care Quality Commission stated in its last report that both are not fit for full occupancy.
At a meeting of the county council’s cabinet next Wednesday, members will be asked to start consultation on the closure of the two homes as the council aims to save £1million over the next two financial years and modernise the service. A third home at Phoenix House in Blandford is also coming under review.
A report to be considered by councillors claims that residential care is not considered the ‘best model of care’ for people with learning disabilities and many people want to live in their own homes with individual support.
Two projects currently underway at Carlton Road North in Weymouth and Cambridge Court in Poundbury in partnership with housing providers will see 19 new supported housing places made available by early next year.
The council is also in discussion with a partner housing association to develop a ground floor property in Dorchester that will cater for the needs of five of the older residents currently living in Douglas Jackman House. The report states that refurbishment or replacement of the building in Alexandra Road could cost up to £3million, which does not offer good value for money when the majority of residents could be moved to supported housing at Carlton Road North.
With 60 people employed at the Weymouth residential home and a further 40 at Douglas Jackman House, staff will be included in a consultation process proposed by council officers as well as service users and their relatives.
Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care Andrew Cattaway said: “In Dorset, we have considerable experience in developing supported housing in the community. “In recent years, 54 former residents of long-term hospital provision have successfully moved into cluster flats and enjoy the freedom and choices this gives them.
“This approach is also in line with the government’s guidelines for providing the best possible care and is also a more cost effective service. The council will explore options for alternative supported individual housing for the residents as part of the review, and look at suitable local residential homes for the people who would struggle to live independently.”
Union Secretary ‘Concerned'
DORSET branch secretary for the GMB Union Gary Pattison says he is ‘very concerned’ about the proposals being put forward by the county council and the impact it could have on the 100 employees at the care homes.
He said the authority needed to be clear with the staff about what the future holds for them, something he felt had not been the case so far.
Mr Pattison said: “We are very concerned about this indeed. What we are mainly concerned about is the employers have proved very difficult to communicate with.
“We have a lot of members up in Alexandra Road who have been asking questions for quite some time now and the management, if anything, have been dragging their heels in giving a response.”
Mr Pattison added that any consultation process must be ‘meaningful’ so the closures do not come across as pre-determined decisions and it was imperative the council listened to the views of staff.
He said: “At the end of the day it is very often the people who actually work at these places who have the best knowledge of what’s going on and are in the best position to give their views on how best to make savings.”
Mr Pattison warned: “If the consultation does not take place in a meaningful way there is a strong possibility we will be looking to take action against the authority.”