Tensions rise at public meeting into closure of village care home

Lakenheath Village Home

Lakenheath Village Home - Credit: Archant

The police were called to a public meeting about the village care home in Lakenheath as discussions turned into an emotionally-charged grilling of the home’s trustees.

Originally the well-attended meeting, which took place on Friday evening, was set out to plan how best to use funds from the sale of the care home to benefit the village and its inhabitants.

However, Christian Enterprise, the charity which ran the home, instead faced questions of why the home was closed, alongside claims of unfair treatment towards staff.

One former worker claimed that employees had been unfairly given bad references by the charity, preventing them from finding new employment.

Suffolk County Councillor, Colin Noble, in response, said that personal matters would not be discussed in the public meeting.

Many villagers claimed they were unsure of why the home was closed at all and felt there was a lack of transparency surrounding the whole matter.

This was not helped by the fact that the original meeting - scheduled for December -was cancelled, leaving many still with unanswered questions more than a month after the closure of the home.

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Trustees Ernie Neal and Richard Radcliffe who attended the meeting, chaired by Cllr Noble, restated that the home had to close in the interests of the safety and welfare of residents. There had been issues brought up in the latest Care Quality Commission report, in particular surrounding standards of staffing.

The considerable burden being placed upon the trustees and “trying to provide modern day standards in a 30 year old home”, were also reasons cited.

Primarily, Mr Radcliffe said the home, opened in 1986 on the site of the old vicarage in Back Street; “Couldn’t comply with current or future standards.”

He added: “The home needed vast investment. Had we continued the money would have run out, we would have had no assets left. We wouldn’t have been able to do any good [in the village].”

These changing standards include the need for rooms with en-suite bathrooms and larger rooms, for example to include hoists.

However, it was raised that it is not a requirement, under Care Quality Commission regulations, to have en-suite bathrooms in existing homes.

Cllr Noble spoke about the Suffolk County Council line which says that homes must have 60-80 rooms to be commercially viable.

He said of small homes, such as the 21-bedroom Lakenheath Village home, “There is a limit you can support a home burning a hole and making a loss.”

It was raised that the village population is set to swell with the plan for 800 homes to be built and yet the communities care for the elderly had been taken away.

Cllr Noble admitted he was concerned about this, in particular that plans for a new care home had not been part of any planning application and he encouraged residents to raise these concerns.

While Cllr Noble and the Christian Enterprise trustees will be disappointed with the lack progress made regarding the charities future, little was done to reduce public anger towards the closure.

Police arrived at the end of the meeting to ensure events had passed peacefully and were not required to take any action.