Group closing Melbourn care home accused of dishonest behaviour by concerned councillors

PUBLISHED: 08:31 27 November 2014

Back row left to right Don's daughter-in-law Lee Ann West, Melbourn county councillor Susan van de Ven and Melbourn district councillor Val Barrett. Front row Southwell Court resident Don West and Melbourn district councillor Jose Hales.

Back row left to right Don's daughter-in-law Lee Ann West, Melbourn county councillor Susan van de Ven and Melbourn district councillor Val Barrett. Front row Southwell Court resident Don West and Melbourn district councillor Jose Hales.

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The group which is closing a care home in Melbourn has been accused of dishonest behaviour by concerned councillors.

People living at Southwell Court and their families were given the bombshell news of the closure by members of the Metropolitan group – the London-based housing association which owns and manages the home – at a meeting last month.

District councillor Jose Hales, who represents the Melbourn ward, said: “We are deeply upset at how Metropolitan has treated the residents of Southwell Court.

“At a combined meeting with residents, councillors, families and members of staff in October, Metropolitan repeatedly offered their own ‘version of the truth’ regarding the alleged government grant that was given to the previous owner to build Southwell Court.

“We challenged Metropolitan on several occasions but they continued to stick to their answer, which was that they could not sell the business to anyone else because they would have to repay the grant back to government.

“They went as far as to state ‘we have contacted the Homes and Communities Agency and they confirm that we would have to repay the grant’.

“However, following a FOI request by families of Southwell Court residents, we understand that the information disclosed indicates that Metropolitan was not provided with any HCA grant at all.

“This raises serious issues about the reliability of the information that Metropolitan shared at the previous meeting which is extremely worrying.”

The 35-room facility, one of two care homes in the village, is home to Lee Anne West’s 94-year-old father-in-law, Don, who has lived there for more than 21 years.

Lee Anne said: “As my father-in-law is a Second World War veteran he is very stoical and always believes that good will win the day, but I’m not so sure! What is happening at Southwell Court is the slippery slope for social care in the region.”

Melbourn county councillor Susan van de Ven said: “As a publicly funded body, Metropolitan should be held to account for the manner in which it has presided over the forced decline of Southwell Court.

“I now have no reason to trust Metropolitan, who presumably want to continue to do business in Melbourn with its next venture.

“One would think that if they understood how badly they have behaved, they would be eager to take up the opportunity to sell Southwell Court as a going concern.”

A Metropolitan spokesman said: “The historic funding of Southwell Court is complex and one of the challenges is that the grant was awarded well before Metropolitan took over responsibility for the home.

“There was no intention to mislead residents or their families – our initial understanding was that the grant came from the HCA or its predecessor.

“However, further investigation would indicate otherwise and we are looking at this.

“Regardless of the status of the grant, it is not sustainable for Metropolitan, a non-profit organisation, to run Southwell Court indefinitely at a loss.

“We have looked at all options for the home, but given its under-occupancy and the substantial capital investment required to bring it up to standard, we have had to take the difficult decision to close the home.”

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