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HOME HEARTBREAK: Disabled residents devastated as beloved care home in Gerrards Cross prepares to close

 Published on: 16th October 2023   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

Residents at Chiltern House care home in Gerrards Cross have been left devastated after being told that the home will close permanently.

Chiltern House, a residential care home for 22 adults with complex needs, is owned by health and welfare charity Leonard Cheshire, which cares for and helps disabled people live as independently as possible.

Kym Cahill was volunteer coordinator at the home for 13 years and is deeply saddened by the closure.

She said: “Chiltern House was always homely and never felt institutionalised. We always had lots of volunteers from the local area who could do fun things with the residents like baking, quizzes, crosswords and reading – all the extra things paid staff didn’t have time for.”

Kym says that the pandemic seriously affected the number of volunteers, as well as making it difficult to arrange fundraising events.

The home will be closing on February 16, 2024, but residents allege it was a done deal even prior to a consultation Leonard Cheshire held with residents and staff.

Residents of the house subsequently held a protest in Gerrards Cross on September 30.

Jill, 60, lived in Chalfont St Peter for most of her life before moving to Chiltern House in 2019. She has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and, like many Chiltern House residents, is a wheelchair user.

She said: “We are all devastated by the news. We feel like collateral damage. People can’t understand the pain of being distributed around the country. Chiltern House is a community; we’re family.”

Jill has many friends locally and has been a member of a local Baptist church for many years. Her room has its own garden, cultivated by one of the volunteers, which brings her a great deal of joy. Now, Jill faces an uncertain future.

She said: “I’m only 60 so I’m too young to go into an elderly care home and not everywhere is set up for wheelchair users. It seems criminal to me that a purpose-built facility, with wide corridors, hoists and activity rooms is going to be demolished. It needs work but it’s not beyond repair.”

Graham Fry’s daughter Samantha has lived at the home since 2006. She has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal but staff who have known her for many years are able to understand what she needs and wants – moving somewhere new will mean rebuilding this rapport all over again.

Mark, who has lived at the home since a scuba diving accident left him disabled 26 years ago, said: “What is happening reflects the financial state of the world right now, but we’re the ones bearing the brunt of it. It feels like this is about pounds, not people.”

A spokesperson for Leonard Cheshire said: “There are detailed internal and external processes we must go through following a decision of this kind. Any responsible provider takes these steps and they take time.

“All the situations of individual residents are different and, based on early conversations, the local campaign group does not represent the views of the majority of residents or staff. Some residents are looking at moves closer to families because new options are now available there, or they are looking elsewhere based on other preferences. In addition, other people’s needs have changed over the years. Indeed, based on recent assessments, a care home with nursing would be more appropriate for around five residents. Chiltern House is not a nursing home, and it is not set up for this provision.  Only 10 residents are funded through Buckinghamshire County Council. In-county and local options for alternative support will be prioritised by the council for these individuals if at all possible.

“No decision on Chiltern House had been taken at that time of these moves. Our priority now is to manage the coming months with as much sensitivity as we can. There is a dedicated team in place at Chiltern House to talk through anyone’s initial fears, outline what will happen in the coming months and what support will be available. We have offered and held many one-to-one meetings with residents, families and their advocates over the last few weeks. This support will increase as we move forward.

“We have well-established processes for the closure of any service, and in the case of Chiltern House, we engaged with all Commissioners, who understand our difficult position, well in advance.

“A wide range of assistance will be available to ensure people find alternative support they are happy with and that meet their current needs. We will be led by their choices.”

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