Speaking about the local implications of the current proposals to shut the all the remaining Northern Trust Residential Homes local Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs commented:
“This consultation has caused great short term uncertainty and stress for vulnerable residents and their families.”
I have asked questions and made public comment at Stormont highlighting this issue since Transforming Your Care was published late in 2011. I also highlighted my concerns in my response to the consultation document. In the background I have been working with relatives of residents in the Lisgarel in Larne helping to establish a Friends of Lisgarel support group. That work is on-going
Sadly, rather than acknowledge and address these concerns, Health officials and the Minster appear to want to accelerate the closure programme.
From personal family experience over the past year, I have seen how vital respite and rehabilitation services have been provided at these Trust Residential homes. Existing residents must be respected and catered for. There is also a growing need for respite care to support the growing numbers of elderly being looked after at home. These homes could fulfil a vital role by increasing the level of respite and rehabilitation and reduce readmissions to Hospital A&E.
Local Residential homes such as Lisgarel, Clonmore and Joymount have also been prevented from taking in new permanent residents for over a year. They were being told that they were reserving places for residents of Greenisland House whose replacement with sheltered housing was announced over 3 years ago. There is also concern at the lack of alternative residential accommodation with the relative shortage that currently exists. I am aware of a Carrickfergus resident being offered a place by the Trust some 40 miles away in the Glens. There also a particular shortage of non-statutory residential accommodation in Larne. It is recognised that for those who are placed in residential care, regular contact with family and friends is vital to their wellbeing.
The issue which is most important now and the one which I will be focussing on is replacement. Where are the alternatives to the services offered by Lisgarel, Joymount, Clonmore, and others? With the continuing need for their services, these Homes should remain open until proper alternatives are in place. It is premature to consider total closure of all these homes within 5 years.”