Elderly residents have been left ‘scared and worried’ after plans to close two major care homes in Salford were revealed. Last week residents living in Monica Court in Monton, and Astley Court in Irlam were told by landlords, ForHousing, that they plan to close the two homes and rehouse tenants ‘over the coming years’.
ForHousing say they have taken the decision to ‘phase out’ buildings because ‘they cannot meet the standards’ they want to provide to tenants. The news has been described as ‘shocking’ by staff, tenants and family members of the schemes that provide a a vital service for the elderly who are in need of a high level of care.
At a meeting about the issue, 65-year-old Debbie Sieglen from Irlam, who moved into Astley Court back in March spoke about her concerns. Debbie moved to Astley Court after living in a private rented accommodation made her feel ‘forgotten’ as she suffered from anxiety, depression and a number of strokes.
She told the MEN that her short time at Astley Court has been ‘amazing’ and she has seen an improvement. Debbie says when she received a notice about a meeting to be had regarding the ‘improvements’ of Astley Court and initially thought it was to do with renovations.
But the news about the court’s impending closure has left tenants ‘worried and scared’ about the prospect of having to relocate miles away from their families and the community they love. Debbie said: “I was born and raised in Irlam, I’ve got family and friends who live in Irlam and even my mum used to live in Astley Court before she passed away.
“I don’t know where they’re gonna end up putting any of us, we’re gonna end up split up. I’ve made quite a few friends here. After the meeting a couple of us were talking and we were worried and scared about where we’re gonna end up, I don’t know where we’ll go.”
Staff members who work at the homes say they were left blind-sided by the plans with many only finding out through social media or hearsay as they were not invited to the meetings. A staff member who asked to remain anonymous said: “We’re unsure what to do because we’ve all got bills and mortgages to pay so, do we look for employment elsewhere, or do we stay because we want to fight because we love where we work?”
Another staff member said: “If we go what happens to the residents then? Who’s going to look after them?”.
News about the impending closure of the homes has rocked the communities with petitions being set up to save Astley Court and Monica Court. A concerned family member whose 89-year-old mother lives at Monica Court said they were left ‘disgusted’ at the news.
Speaking to the MEN they said: “Our family is utterly devastated and disgusted at the way our mum and all the other residents are being treated. She is 89 and suffers from early onset dementia and Parkinson’s. You can’t just uproot and move her to not only a different area but to a place and people who will be total strangers to her.
“She has lived in Monton for over 30 years all the residents have been understandably distressed already but it’s not even started yet. We will all find it difficult to visit regularly as some of the family don’t drive and some may live miles away from the alternative accommodation.”
Irlam ward councillor Lewis Nelson has rallied against the decision and has appealed to ForHousing to work with the council, residents and union reps to ‘hand the building over’ to the community.
Speaking to the MEN he said: “Astley Court is the only place of its kind in the area and the residents are proud to call it home. Astley Court is an outstanding community asset, if ForHousing feel they are incapable of running it any longer, they should get around the table with the council, residents and union representatives and hand the building over to be run in the interest of our community.
“A choice has been made here, to not invest in Astley Court over many years or forward plan a local alternative. Asset stripping our town by bulldozing supported living homes and pushing out our friends, family and neighbours from the community during a social care crisis won’t be accepted.
“The support for residents and staff at the very beginning of this campaign has been overwhelming. The whole town stands with the residents of Astley Court and their families.”
Sharmina August, ward councillor for Monton where Monica Court is based, echoed Coun Nelson’s sentiments and said: “We’re completely against the closure, these are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. The way that ForHousing has informed them of this decision is completely irresponsible.
“We don’t think this is in the best interest for residents and we’re really concerned about it and it is something we as ward councillors will be opposing completely. I understand as well as it was the first time staff was told and we’ve got a lot of concerned staff not knowing what their future will be.
“We don’t have enough facilities in our city to take care of people as it is. To close them down based on considerations of profit is really mercenary if I’m honest.”
ForHousing say ‘nobody is being asked to leave their current homes’ immediately, however a representative confirmed that a review will take place in 12 months time where they will make a decision on when the closure will happen.
Nigel Sedman, Group Director of Homes at ForHousing, said: “At ForHousing, we are dedicated to improving lives and ensuring everyone has a high-quality home where they can thrive. Last week we spoken with the tenants and residents of both Monica and Astley Court and their families to let them know that from now, no one else will be moving in to these schemes.
“This is because over the coming years we are going to phase out the use of these buildings as extra care schemes as they cannot meet the standards we want to provide to current and future tenants. ForHousing has been engaging with officers from Salford Council, who commission and manage the care provision on the schemes, about our future plans and we will continue to do so.
“Nobody is being asked to leave their current home and we want to do all we can to avoid unsettling tenants living in Monica and Astley Court. When the time is right, we will be working with tenants and their families, supporting them to find a suitable home that meets their current and future needs.”