Shabby treatment over care home closure continues

Date: Tuesday 4th July 2017

Sir, It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Cumbria County Council has treated Appleby very shabbily over the closure of Edenside, its home for elderly and vulnerable people, and the consequent failure to provide any alternative accommodation or even to put forward a plan 18 months later.

Edenside suffered from the floods in December, 2015, and residents were transferred to a vacant home in Penrith — previously closed because of its unsuitability for Penrith residents.

It wasn’t until September, 2016, nine months later, that the council decided that Edenside would not be reopened. There was a strong suspicion in Appleby that closure was a “done deal”; not surprising as the council’s policy is clearly to close smaller homes in favour of larger, more specialised institutions.

But Applebians were told not to worry as, I quote from the minutes of the meeting on 22nd September: “Cabinet notes and supports the work already being undertaken to develop a robust plan to address and support the needs of older residents.”

By January, 2017, the county council had had three more months in which to hone its “robust plan”. On 9th January I used the Freedom of Information Act to ask for its details.

The law states that replies must be provided within 20 working days; when these had elapsed I phoned the department concerned repeatedly. An answer finally dropped into my in-box on 13th March (26 days late). It’s hard to see why it took so long since my specific question was ignored and I was referred to a commissioning strategy for the whole of Cumbria. It further stated that “a review of health, care and community services provision has taken place. The outcomes from the review and an integrated care community event planned for mid-March, 2017, will inform a commissioning plan for Appleby-in-Westmorland”. I do not know whether this event took place, I saw nothing in the local press about it.

The response pointed out that if I was dissatisfied I could request an internal review.

I did this and was told a response would be sent by 12th April. It took a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s office and a letter to the chief executive of the county council to extract a response which arrived on 20th June asking me to accept their sincere apologies for a delay of nearly three months.

Still no detail of their plans to care for the old and vulnerable — just another “event” in mid-July; no information about who can attend and where and when it will be held.

Members of the county council should be ashamed of their laggardly response to the needs of Appleby’s frail and elderly residents and of their repeated breaches of the Freedom of Information Act, delaying and then deliberately refusing to answer specific questions presumably in order to conceal their lack of forward planning. Yours etc,