St Albans care home for elderly blind people to close

PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 June 2010

St Raphaels care home, St Albans.

St Raphaels care home, St Albans.

Archant

ELDERLY blind and partially-sighted people have been left heartbroken by the news that their care home – the only one of its kind in the county – is to close in just over three months time.

Many of the 24 residents, some of whom are also deaf, have said that they would rather die than move out of their much-loved accommodation at St Raphael’s in Avenue Road, St Albans, which has cited increasing amounts of red tape as the reason for closure.

The home, which occupies a large Victorian house and has it’s own chapel and garden, was set up in 1932 by Anglican charity St John’s Guild, which broke the news to staff at a meeting last week.

The families of the residents were sent letters about the closure, scheduled for September 30, so that they could break the devastating news to their relatives.

Vulnerable

A member of staff, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “There are a lot of vulnerable people here and a lot of them are well over 90.

“They cannot believe it, they’re saying they would rather die or that they hope they are dead before it happens. It’s just heartbreaking.”

She pointed out that St Raphael’s was the only home for blind people in Herts and that its residents required complex 24-hour care which was provided by a dedicated 30-strong team, before adding: “St John’s Guild is a charity but where is the charity in making these people homeless?”

One of the residents is 100-year-old Violet Robertson, who moved to the home in March after becoming unable to live independently due to blindness and deafness.

Her son Craig Robertson, who will be travelling from his home in the West Country to break the news to her today (Thursday), said: “It’s a terrible disappointment.

Terrible news

“It’s a lovely care home, it’s small and the staff there are so good – they’re specialists in dealing with people like my mother, so it really is terrible news that it’s closing.”

“It’s unfortunate as she has only been there since March. We really had to persuade her to move out of her home as she has been very independent despite her deafness, sight and frailty. But she has settled in well – she likes the home and the staff that look after her are wonderful, exceptional.

“She has really become quite content there now and I don’t know what the news is going to do to her in all honesty.”

He understands that the lift at the home lies at the crux of the matter.

There has been an ongoing appeal for funds of £125,000 so that a new larger lift to meet health and safety regulations and carry wheelchairs could be installed.

Since solving the problem isn’t insurmountable, Mr Robertson went on to question whether there were other factors apart from bureaucracy behind the closure.

A petition campaigning for the home to remain open has been started by Mr Robertson’s nephew’s wife Jennie, who visits his mum regularly.

Trevor Cowell’s 84-year-old mother Rosina is one of few at the home that don’t have any sight or hearing problems, but nonetheless he said the move would be a major upheaval for her.

After breaking the news to her last week, he said: “I think she has taken it better than most because she has only been there three years; some of them have been at the home for a very long time.

“But it’s all the upheaval of it and she has got to know all of the staff and the other residents.”

Chief officer at St John’s Guild Richard McEwan said the directors of the charity made the announcement of the closure with “deep regret.”

He said that St Raphael’s was proud of its reputation and three-star rating for excellent service from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), but that the directors of the home had found it “increasingly difficult” to comply with building requirements, ongoing legislation and the standards of the CQC.

But he declined to give any specific information about what legislation had caused the problems.

Isolation

Mr McEwan explained that St John’s Guild was founded in 1919 by Dorothy Light and the Rev Christian Waudby, a blind Anglican priest, who were both concerned about the isolation and loneliness in which so many blind people lived.

He added: “St John’s Guild will continue its work of meeting the spiritual needs of people who are blind, deaf and blind or partially sighted, and to continue to provide resources where possible to meet those needs.”

A spokesperson for Adult Care Services at Herts County Council, which has 11 clients at the home, said that they had been notified of the closure and that staff would be working closely with the residents to find alternative accommodation where they hope they will be “as settled and as happy as they have been.”


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