PLANS to close residential homes in Dorchester and Weymouth have been backed by councillors.

Staff from Dorset County Council’s Douglas Jackman House in the county town and Alexandra Road, which provide residential care services for adults with learning disabilities, took to the steps of County Hall to voice their anger ahead of a meeting of the authority’s cabinet.

However, despite the show of opposition, members agreed to push forward with the closures as part of a move towards supported living accommodation that councillors claimed would lead to ‘better outcomes’ for residents.

Under the new plans the eight residents of Douglas Jackman House and seven of the 14 at Alexandra Road will be relocated to supported living facilities run by housing providers in Poundbury, Dorchester and Weymouth.

Members were told ‘individual solutions are proposed’ for the remaining seven residents at Alexandra Road.

Around 100 staff are employed at the two homes and they will have the chance to transfer to the new providers.

The proposals also include converting the ground floor of the council’s Phoenix House residential home in Blandford to supported living accommodation with the upstairs used to provide short breaks for carers.

Deputy director for adult and community services Harry Capron told the cabinet that the decision to close the Weymouth and Dorchester homes was more about the standard of the accommodation than the quality of care provided there.

He said: “This review is not a reflection in any way on the quality of staff support that has taken place in any of the three residential units and staff have been commended over a number of years.”

Mr Capron said the buildings were no longer fit for purpose and a move towards assisted living accommodation was widely recognised as ‘best practice’ in the industry.

He added that the directorate also had a savings target totalling around £1million over the next two years.

Head of specialist adult services Glen Gocoul said the council had already moved more than 50 residents with learning disabilities from other facilities into a supported living facility and had received positive feedback.

He also stressed that no resident would be forced to move to assisted living if they did not want to and each case would be looked at individually.

Cabinet member for adult social care Jill Haynes said: “I’m very happy that this is happening as this is about better outcomes for the people of Dorset.”

Coun Robert Gould added: “It does obviously deliver significant savings but I think the important thing is it is clear that the level of care and outcomes can actually be significantly better by adopting these new ways of providing support.”

Staff concerns over future of residents

STAFF from the residential homes facing closure have voiced their concerns for the future of the residents they have been caring for.

Their protest on the steps of County Hall was supported by the Unison and GMB unions.

A staff member from the Alexandra Road home in Weymouth, who said she and colleagues had been advised not to give their names, said: “We feel residents have not been given a voice, there has not been proper consultation.

“The majority of our residents have lived together for 20 to 30 years and they are using the guise of this being modernisation and a different model of care.”

A Douglas Jackman House worker added that she was concerned about what the future held for the residents.

She said: “We are extremely worried, especially about the care they will receive.”

A member of staff from Alexandra Road said: “It takes a long time to gain these people’s trust – they are vulnerable people.”