Tynwald has unanimously voted in favour to support the delay of a closure of a Peel care home for six months to allow for all options to be considered and its finances to be more closely scrutinised.
Kate Lord-Brennan MLC said successive governments have failed to invest in the provision of residential housing in the west of the island and said it was ‘very difficult for the gov to act given the short time frame’.
Speaking of the residents of Peel, Mrs Lord-Brennan said if they had been given more time, they would have sought to help the directors and trustees of the home but given the short timeframe available, only the gov can now step in to help.
She added that there were fears over whether or not some residents of the home would survive being forced to move out of their community into a new home and asked ‘where is the gov’s moral obligation in all this’?
Mrs Lord-Brennan added: ‘This needs to be dealt with, it is not going to go away and it will cost gov one way or another.’
Douglas East MHK Chris Robertshaw said he had ‘no hesitancy’ in supporting the motion and praised the MLC for standing up for the residents of the home and for Peel. He added: ‘This isn’t just about Peel, this is about elderly care right across the island. Today is about Peel and the west, tomorrow it could be your constituency, this affects us all.’
Mr Robertshaw said Tynwald had to be ‘proactive’ with the motion and referred back to 2015 when Tynwald appointed a select committee to look into the future of care home provision in the island. That committee recommended the model for care homes where the gov owns the homes and for the private sector to run them as it meant the gov would be in place to protect the residents and staff in the event of a failure of the provider to keep the business going.
He added that with other homes around the island coming to the end of their life, the island needs to find a long term solution and said ‘we can’t let the Corrin Home slip through the net, the people of the home deserve better and the west deserve better’.
Health and Social Care Minister David Ashford said the debate is ‘one of those we wish we weren’t having to have’. He said it was a ‘sad situation’ and the turn out of the meeting on Monday night ‘shows how many people in the community are invested in the home’ and said members ‘mustn’t forget at the heart of all this is the people’.
He added: ‘The end of July is far too short… So the big issue is that notice period because between now and the end of July there is nothing we can physically do.’
Mr Ashford said having spoken to staff at the home, he said they have only the needs of the residents in mind and that the residents are clearly happy in the home.
In moving an amendment, Mr Ashford said he sought to ‘strengthen’ Mrs Lord-Brennan’s motion. As well as ensuring that the community and the directors will have a role in deciding the future of the home, Mr Ashford has opened the door to his department playing a long term role in the home either through redevelopment or refurbishment. He pledged his department will work with the directors to give residents a minimum of six months notice prior to the home closing.
Policy and Reform Minister Ray Harmer, who is the MHK for Glenfaba and Peel, rose to second Mr Ashford’s amendment and said ‘the fundamental issue’ around the home is the ethos of the staff and the home in ensuring not only their the residents are looked after, but they also have their independence. He said it was possible to ‘turn a tragedy, which it is, into something positive’.
Acknowledging that Mrs Lord-Brennan is restricted in what she can get Tynwald to do, Mr Harmer added: ‘With this amendment, we can say we have six months, let’s work with the community and get something done… I like the amendment because it commits gov to do something.’
Bill Henderson MLC said he is ‘very angry and very sad’ that the proposed closure had reached Tynwald but highlighted that it was nothing new as he, alongside former constituency colleague John Houghton, fought the closure of Glenside care home. While this was delayed, the home did eventually close. But he was concerned that at the time, residents of the room were ‘moved around like packages’ and treated ‘not like humans, but like animals’. He said those residents had been ‘forcibly ejected’ and it had had a major impact on many residents’ health.
Mr Henderson added: ‘We have 21 elderly residents, some in their 90s, living in THEIR HOME. Now I personally charge the Health Minister to do all he can to ensure that the Corrin Memorial Home will stay open for as long as possible until we can sort this mess out. I warn all members, the worst thing you can do to en elderly person is to move them somewhere on short notice, the health implications are considerable, we need to be talking about the humanity of the situation here and compassion.’
Seeking to amend Mr Ashford’s amendment, Mr Henderson said he wanted to add a line that the DHSC should return to Tynwald with an update on the situation in October. Mr Henderson’s amendment was seconded by the Lord Bishop Peter Eagles who commended the house for seeking to be compassionate for the residents.
Douglas South MHK Captain Paul Quine said he was concerned about the way the home’s closure was being handled and how the residents and staff were being treated and praised Mrs Lord-Brennan for bringing the matter to Tynwald with the urgency it required.
Middle MHK Bill Shimmins said the gov has had ‘four and half years and there has been no progress really’ on the matter of social care and likened it to ‘the lack of real progress’ in the gov’s housing strategy.
Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot, who also represents Glenfaba and Peel, said he was ‘dismayed’ at the closure of the home and said it was ‘unfortunate’ that concerns about the home’s finances weren’t raised previously. However he said he didn’t want to ‘play the blame game, but snatch something positive’ and said members had to ‘concentrate on what we can do for the residents of the Corrin Home’. Mr Boot said it was ‘obvious’ that there is great support for the home in Peel and said ‘we need support from a gov perspective’.
He added: ‘I think it important to examine the refurbishment option to see if the home can be saved in the short term but we do need to look at long term provision… I think it is important that we don’t waste the time that this extension may afford us.’
Douglas South MHK Claire Christian praised the level of residential care across the island and criticised the gov’s prior refusal to step in and protect the home. She said: ‘We have a moral obligation today to step in now.’
Liberal Vannin leader Lawrie Hooper said it was ‘becoming more and more clear that we don’t have a national social care service and I think that is a huge gap that we have been quite negligent in not filling’. Mr Hooper said that under the regulations which govern the running of care homes on the island, the DHSC is required to ensure a registered provider is financially viable but said ‘it appears that they don’t.’ He said the previous two reports into the home, in 2019 and earlier this year, gave no mention to the financial state of the home and said the department had ‘failed’ to fulfill this role.
Mr Hooper asked what role the DHSC had played in the decision to close the home and whether it was monitoring other homes in the way it is required to do so.
DoI Minister Tim Baker said the gov had to engage with providers who he ‘fully believes’ will step in to provide services if the gov can provide the right circumstances around that and said the gov has to engage with the community. He added: ‘There has to be a partnership between gov, community and social enterprises.’
Onchan MHK Julie Edge, who last month moved a general debate on the provision of care homes on the island, said the issue is now ‘very urgent’ but asked how the home’s financial state hadn’t come to light sooner given the inspections the DHSC is required to do.
Ms Edge also sought to further amend the motion in order to ‘give surety’ over the six month period from the announcement of an intended closure. She said the gov needs to find a way to ensure care provision is provided across the island and called on blocking the demolition of any care home until a full plan is in place, with planning permission, to replace the beds that would be lost.
She added: ‘It’s important we don’t forget it’s not a building that needs to be maintained, it’s people’s homes.’
Clare Barber MHK, who first started working in residential homes when she was 15 before going into a career in nursing, said there was ‘no question’ that members want to make the right decision for the Corrin Home residents and residents of all other care homes on the island and said it was important to give as much time as possible for the gov, the board of directors and the residents to reach decisions.
Ann Corlett MHK said the idea of moving people out of the community they had lived in all their lives was ‘against my principles’. She also said it went against the idea of community care and said given the opportunity, the provision of the home with other medical centres on one site could become a model example of how to run an integrated system around the island.
Her constituency colleague Chris Thomas said the families, residents and staff or the Home are owed an apology for the way the closure has been handled. Mr Thomas said that as residents and families faced much higher bills in other homes, if room could even be found, the moratorium would hopefully provide them with some time to prepare and to find solutions.
Mr Thomas also called on Tynwald to give surety to the residents of the home by using the six months wisely and suggested that members should follow the example of Mr Robertshaw during the last administration which allowed for 13 months before Glenside was finally closed. He said that social enterprises would likely become the way to support the ongoing provision of homes in the island.
Marlene Maska MLC told members that the home has been residents’ world for some time and moving them would be traumatic for many of them. Mrs Maska said she had similar concerns to Mr Hooper in asking how the home’s financial situation wasn’t known until recently and what level of support and communication had gone on between itself and the DHSC.
She added: ‘When you have lived in the west all your life, you have the right to stay there.’ And said there are many examples of people forced to move to different parts of the island from where they have lived which has left them isolated from partners and families. Mrs Maska said Tynwald had to find a way to work together with the community and directors.
Treasury Minister Alf Cannan said: ‘There is a time and a place for Tynwald to occasionally flex its collective muscle and today is that day.’
While Mr Cannan said the residents have to be at the centre of discussions, members needed to know more about the financial state of the home, the infrastructure of the home and the potential cost to retaining the ‘vital’ home. He added: ‘These types of organisations shouldn’t be given up without a fight.’
Mrs Lord-Brennan’s motion, as amended by Mr Ashford, Mr Henderson and Ms Edge, was voted through unanimously by members.