Effect of care homes closures would be ‘like a cancer’

Lib Dems outside County Hall before a petition was presented opposing closure of Milton Grange and Firwood House
Lib Dems outside County Hall before a petition was presented opposing closure of Milton Grange and Firwood House

Shutting two Eastbourne care homes would be ‘bonkers’ and have an ‘effect like a cancer’, according to Lib Dem councillors.

Plans to close Milton Grange and Firwood House,are included in a public consultation to save money by East Sussex County Council which closed in April.

Meanwhile a consultation into a review of day services covering Bexhill’s Charter Centre, Seaford’s Warwick House, Hastings’ Isabel Blackman Centre and the Phoenix Centre in Lewes closes later this month.

The Tories have stated no final decision will be made until June 26.

A petition opposing the closure of Milton Grange and Firwood House, which was signed by almost 10,000 people, was presented to and debated by county councillors on Tuesday (May 15).

A Lib Dem proposal calling for the two facilities to be kept open in the long term, was defeated.

Instead a motion by Carl Maynard, lead member for adult social care and health, stating that the council welcomes all views and the petition would be fully taken into account when the Cabinet considers the outcome of the consultation and impact assessments of all the services on June 26, was agreed.

The motion added: “This will ensure a fair and transparent approach to the difficult choices faced by the county council.”

Stephen Lloyd, Lib Dem MP for Eastbourne, presented the petition to councillors and thanked resident Maria Galt for setting it up.

He described how Milton Grange was particularly strong for dementia respite, while Firwood House provided rehabilitation services to keep patients out of hospital.

He suggested the closures would lead to some patients not being able to lead independent lives in their own homes.

Mr Lloyd added: “I urge you to do what it takes when you reach the decision to do the right thing and that is to keep both these homes open.

“Eastbourne deserves it, we deserve it and councillors please do the right thing.”

David Tutt (LDem, Eastbourne - St Anthony’s), leader of the Lib Dem group, said it was not only ‘just plain bonkers’ to close care homes providing high quality services but also in the long term the cost to the public purse would be higher.

Carolyn Lambert (LDem, Seaford South) added: “The effect of these cuts is like a cancer. The effect metastasizes across families and communities and puts additional strain on some of our most vulnerable residents.”

She continued: “We can choose to serve our residents with care and compassion and provide them with the care they need.”

Meanwhile John Ungar (LDem, Eastbourne - Old Town) explained how the facilities reduced the number of delayed discharges from hospital and also gave carers a break to ‘recharge their batteries’.

Trevor Webb (Lab, Hastings - Central St Leonards and Gensing), leader of the Labour group, agreed with the Lib Dems and called the proposed closures a ‘bad decision’. He added: “It seems like folly to be looking at closures.”

Phil Scott (Lab, Hastings - Hollington and Wishing Tree) pointed to previous closures of Hastings’ Pinehill and Mount Denys, adding: “I think it’s a case of we have got an uncaring and unsympathetic government that gives very little to local authorities to carry out their responsibilities.”

But Sylvia Tidy (Con, Crowborough South and St Johns), lead member for children and families, said the Eastbourne-centric services were something the town ‘loves and knows’ but felt there was nothing comparable in the north of East Sussex.

She added: “We know we are taking decisions that none of us wants to make but we believe by doing what we are doing and listening and through the consultation we will finally be able to come up with a decision that suits all those who live in East Sussex.”

Phil Boorman (Con, Seaford North) added: “No changes will be considered unless there are viable alternatives.”

Later in the meeting Mr Maynard (Con, Brede Valley and Marsham) said: “Nobody comes into local Government to make savings but our resources are finite and we have to look at all areas of search.”

To view the petition visit the change.org website.

The consultation on day services runs until Monday May 28. Visit the council’s website.