“Under-used” elderly care centre in Acle set to close its doors

PUBLISHED: 08:30 18 October 2013

Herondale short stay residential care home and day centre in Acle.

Picture: James Bass

Herondale short stay residential care home and day centre in Acle. Picture: James Bass

(C) Archant Norfolk 2013

The charity behind a doomed respite and day centre in the heart of Broadland has hailed the rallying response of local people as it looks to find a new home.

Chief executive Hilary MacDonald speaking at the Age UK Norfolk AGM.  Photo: Bill SmithChief executive Hilary MacDonald speaking at the Age UK Norfolk AGM. Photo: Bill Smith

Age UK Norfolk is having to close its Herondale Centre in Acle, which offers a life-line service for around 30 “active elderly” every week.

The Norfolk County Council-owned complex dates from the 1970s and includes an “under-used” 29-bed respite centre - one of only three in Norfolk.

But its small bedrooms and shared bathrooms are considered “unfit for the future” and the cash-strapped council says it can no longer justify the spend and wants to put the money towards other services.

Shutting the Bridwell Lane respite centre also spells the end for the day service which provides a range of stimulating social events for older people.

John Harris, chairman of Acle Parish Council, said it was a well-used, much-appreciated facility that would be greatly missed.

He said: “It embraced the whole community. It is a fairly large building which was purpose built and has given good service. It is regrettable that it has to close. They were always putting on events. Hopefully when it does close a purchaser can be found quickly so the site does not deteriorate.”

Hilary MacDonald, chief executive of Age UK Norfolk, said: “It is not an easy situation but what we have to focus on is that the building is not fit for purpose. We cannot give any guarantees but depending on demand and finding a location we are hoping that we can continue the day service.

“We are already receiving wonderful support from the local community. The building requires considerable investment. It needs to be updated and modernised and that work needs to be done in order to maintain a suitable and safe environment for the people that we care for. But there is no money for investment. Even if work was carried out on it we would still have a building that was not fit for the future with no en-suite facilities.

“We have known for some time that the building had a limited life, but it was still a shock to reach that point.

“But it is so heartening to see that people still continue to support us and are coming up with suggestions for our day services.

“Fewer and fewer people are willing to use shared services, people’s expectations change. It is a wonderful service and people really enjoy staying with us. But we have to look to meeting today’s standards.”

Around 30 people work at the Bridewell Lane site. The charity is still negotiating with the county council over a closure date. An advice team has been assembled to support staff. Sue Whitaker, cabinet member for Adult Social Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We have to make the difficult decision to terminate the services at Herondale. This will result in the closure of the services there. We fully appreciate that this will come as a blow to staff and to those people who have used and valued the care and support Herondale has offered over the years.

“The county council has a block contract with Age UK Norfolk to provide respite care for up to 21 people but it has been under-used for some years. “For the last couple of years only a third of the beds have been occupied. We cannot justify continuing to fund a service which is so under-used to this extent.

“I would like to reassure people that we are confident there will continue to be enough capacity in Norfolk’s respite care provision to ensure everyone who needs this important service will be able to use it. We are currently working with providers in the Acle area to identify alternative provision to meet respite needs of older people and their carers. We also know the care needs of people living in Norfolk are changing so in addition we intend to commission 10 specialist respite beds to meet the often more complex needs of people with dementia.

“Catherine Underwood, director of integrated commissioning at NCC, said: “Everyone who currently attends the respite and day services at Herondale will be reassessed by our staff to determine, with them and their families, what care options will suit them best. Our staff and representatives from Age UK Norfolk are setting aside time and will arrange drop-in sessions to listen to any concerns of people who currently use Herondale, their friends and relatives. No one should have to worry about this on their own, so I would urge people to speak to the manager at Herondale or use the contact details on the letters they have received.”

Its latest CQC report showed all standards were being met.

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