STAFF at a Dorset care home have hit out over plans to close the facility.

Councillors approved plans to hold a consultation with a view to closing Phoenix House in Blandford, which offers respite and residential care for adults with learning disabilities.

It comes after another council-run care home, Douglas Jackman House in Dorchester, was closed last year.

Members of the Unison union protested the move on the steps of County Hall in Dorchester as councillors arrived to discuss the matter at a cabinet meeting.

A report prepared for the meeting stated that under-occupancy of the home and high running costs were the reasons behind the recommendation to sell the building.

Phoenix House currently provides full-time accommodation for just one person.

Councillor Jill Haynes, cabinet member for adult social care, said the discussion is not about the building but how to appropriately run services.

She added: “It is a lesson in how fast things are changing and it is our job to provide the best care possible. Demand for the kind of institutionalised residential care provided by Phoenix House has fallen as more people with learning disabilities seek to live independently in their own homes.

“We must also fully involve and consult with our staff and involve the trade unions.”

Director for adult and community services Catherine Driscoll added: “We would want to provide support for people to live as independently as possible and the building, by its nature is an institutionalised model of care.”

County Councillor Janet Dover said people who use the service at Phoenix House were ‘extremely distressed’ at the news.

She said: “For some people it’s simply not possible to go into the community.

Speaking after the meeting, assistant branch secretary of Unison Amanda Brown said: “It is under-occupied at present, but staff were told it would be a slow process and it has only been open less than two years.”

The results of the consultation will be discussed at a cabinet meeting in May.