Barnhaven's Future in Bampton
Barnhaven is a residential care home sited in the middle of Bampton. At present it is owned and run by Devon County Council - but its future is very uncertain:
DCC are holding consultation exercises in order to see how they might save money having suffered huge financial cuts in funding from Central Government. They have already consulted on how to save money in youth service provision and decided to provide a 'targeted service' rather than a 'universal service'. The next sector of the public up for scrutiny are residential homes and this seems to apply predominantly to care homes for elderly people. There has been a great deal about this in the Tiverton Gazette. Although the consultation did not complete until March 26th 2014 the general feeling was that the decision had been taken.
CARE FOR DEVON: Link to Save Devon Care Homes Campaign on Facebook - here.
They also have an informative web-site - here
Sally Jackson began a petition to show how many local people supported Barnhaven and the service it provides and brought this news to a meeting of BTC. The 'Save Barnhaven' letter (below) was BTC's response to the consultation. A public meeting was arranged by BTC to discuss the situation. Cllr Stuart Barker, the portfolio holder for Adult and Social Care was invited but declined. This left Cllr Polly Colthorpe to attend. Although she wasn't able to answer great many questions on the night she did state that she would not support the campaign to save Barnhaven and also informed the meeting that a formal consultation had not been held in Mid Devon. These statements were captured on an audio recording.
The statement provided below was provided by Cllr Colthorpe after the meeting.
Mr S Barker,
Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care,
Devon County Council,
Dear Mr Barker,
Re; The future of residential care homes in Devon.
Following the recent Public Meeting held in Bampton Cllr Polly Colthorpe supplied the following information to the Town Council.
‘Here are the questions I wrote down during last Tuesday's meeting and the answers from Stuart Barker which I received last night.
i) Q. How does the county consult? (I have already given them an outline of the process and the names of some of the consultees)
A. The formal consultation is the one we have with residents, their families and staff. This is a service DCC supplies to existing residents and staff are the relevant employees. They have been provided with formal consultation documents and there have been separate meetings with staff and residents/families. In addition we have provided web access to the proposals and the consultation documents for other people and organisations to use.
In addition to the formal consultation, and before it started, we held engagement events with stakeholders to test whether the data we intended to use was appropriate to be able to consider the future of the service and for them to identify if any other information was required. We also asked them to provide a view, using the data supplied, as to the proposal they would make faced with the information. These were anonymised but used real data from actual sites. The proposals made reflected the views of the stakeholder engagement events for each site. Invites to the stakeholder events went to Parish,Town,District, County Councillors, Clinical commissioning groups, voluntary sector organisations, representatives of user organisations and health watch. There was also a special briefing meeting for all County Councillors. There have also been update meetings with the same stakeholders during the consultation period. The initial engagement events were attended by 185 people of which 75 were councillors from Parish,Town,District and County Council.
ii) Q. Who takes the ultimate decision vis-à-vis Barnhaven? Is it the portfolio-holder or does it go to full council?A. The Portfolio- holder
iii) Q.What about those elderly and frail people who may have no family? A. We fund and support an advocacy and mentoring service and anyone who appears to not have capacity is put in touch with them
iv) Q. Where are all the homes to which those displaced from Barnhaven and Charlton Lodge are supposed to be going? 'The homes aren't out there' A. They are. We are regularly placing people in independent care homes and our care managers report if there are any hotspots for placements. Recent checks indicate 42 vacancies within 10 miles of Bampton. Residential care placements are reducing by around 1% per year due to more ability to care for people at home and in extra care housing. The independent sector voids are increasing by 1% per year and the homes are currently between 80% and 85% full.
In respect of Point iii Councillors were advised:
a). Advocacy should be provided by an independent agency, not funded and supported by the organisation that is creating the difficulty. People's opinions are automatically compromised by having to seek help from the entity that caused the problem and has already stated it's own preferred outcomes.
b). It is not acceptable to refer a third party for advocacy support; the support has to be sought by the individual. It is very bad practice to assume the right to make prescriptive decisions on behalf of anyone else, especially people in vulnerable situations.
c). The existence of residential care homes is particularly important to individuals with no family support and who are particularly vulnerable to the whims of third parties who may wish to abuse the security and well-being of that person.
d). If advocacy support were to be available to the residents from an external agency it should be during the consultation process to ensure this is seen to be a comprehensive and transparent process which supported everyone in making their feelings known.
This information brought this response from a Bampton Town Councillor;
‘Do you think it would be a good idea to make this point about advocacy in writing to the Portfolio holder, or not? I suppose he has staff who receive responses to ‘consultation procedures’ - they are no doubt supposed to ‘advise’ him; and if I were advising him, I would tell him to refer this to the County Solicitor’s staff, because it could form a substantial ground for getting a judicial review later, unless he can show he took it into account when making his decision.’
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the creation of the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate Service, a Government initiative brought about by the Dept. of Health, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Public Guardian, offers the following information regarding the provision of advocacy;
“Staff in the NHS or a Local Authority, for example, doctors, care managers and social workers, all have a duty under the Mental Capacity Act to instruct an IMCA where the eligibility criteria are met.
IMCAs and changes to accommodation.
The local authority or the NHS must instruct an IMCA where decisions are proposed about a move to or change in accommodation where the person lacks capacity to make the decision and there are no family or friends who are willing and able to support the person.”
Concern was also expressed regarding Cllr Colthorpe’s acknowledgement at the Public Meeting that there had not been a consultation in Mid Devon which shows a startling lack of appropriate procedure in a situation that will impact on the lives of vulnerable people. It should be noted here that as the Public Meeting was recorded Cllr Colthorpe’s remarks are a matter of public record.
On behalf of Bampton Town Council.
Letter from Bampton Town Council to Devon County Coucil:
Cllr Stuart Barker,
Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care,
Devon County Council,
Dear Cllr Barker,
Bampton Town Council wishes the strength of feeling in the town against the possible closure of Barnhaven residential care home to be known.
The residents of the Barnhaven are people who have lived and worked in Bampton and they are now cared for by people who also live locally and whom they know and trust. This arrangement exemplifies the meaning of community in the truest sense and constitutes the best example of care in the community, which is itself beyond price.
The economics of the situation are given as the prime consideration but the knock on effect of closing Barnhaven and expecting people to find new homes and jobs has its own financial and emotional cost. Despite extensive house building in Bampton there are no bungalows being built to accommodate elderly people or those with mobility difficulties. There is very little social housing and the cost of living in a private care home would be well beyond the means of most, if not all. To lose one’s home at any time is distressing enough but to be told that this is likely to happen without the courtesy of any reassurance as to what awaits in the future is particularly harsh.
As the website of Devon County Council states:
‘For some people it is not possible to stay living safely at home and the best option may be residential or nursing care.
Residential care homes aim to provide the care and the attention you would receive at home from a caring relative. Staff help with personal care such as getting up, washing, dressing and going to the toilet.
There are a range of homes available, some specialising in looking after people with certain conditions, such as dementia.Meals are provided and there are often outings and other activities.’
A comprehensive range of needs is acknowledged in this statement and it is obvious that these needs are not going to be met by leaving elderly people to live in isolation, awaiting a short visit twice a day from a comparative stranger.
As an employer of over thirty people the cost of supporting the staff and their families whilst they seek new employment should also be considered. Bampton has recently lost one employer with the closure of Hookins Oil and there is a need for jobs in the town as the poor public transport service makes it difficult to get to work even in Tiverton. This is also a good reason for maintaining a care facility which serves the local population in a rural area.
At a recent meeting of Bampton Town Council it was suggested that Barnhaven was now considered too small to operate as a residential home due to new legislation. This legislation was brought in in 1999 and pertains only to residential homes built after that date. It is fair to say that if someone needs the use of a hoist or similar equipment that need will remain and there is less space in which to operate safely in a private home than in a purpose built environment. A considerable amount of money has been invested in the maintenance of Barnhaven in recent years and it is also false economy to write this off in order to create an empty building.
One of the Town Councillors who is also a care worker made the point that there is already a lack of sufficient care workers to meet the need apparent in the community. The point was also made that not all the beds in Barnhaven are allocated as some have to be ‘held back’ for social services referrals. One has to ask if these places are paid for whilst being held open? The outcome of this situation is that elderly people living in the community have to be referred to hospital should difficulties arise and this in turn compromises the effectiveness of the hospital in supporting the wider community.
There needs to be a realistic assessment of the excellent service Barnhaven provides and the difficulties that will be created with its closure. This is not a situation that will be .made easier to manage through the application of a prescriptive response from a distant office .A full financial review or audit is required to ensure that the supposed savings which might be made through foisting this initiative onto vulnerable people and their carers, are real and not imagined.
Yours sincerely etc