Warning over renewed ‘threat’ to Derry residential homes

Alan Philson, Unison Foyle Joint Branch Secretary (second from right) pictured with Unison and Community representatives outside Strabane Council offices.
Alan Philson, Unison Foyle Joint Branch Secretary (second from right) pictured with Unison and Community representatives outside Strabane Council offices.

The threat hanging over Derry’s last remaining public sector care homes looks set to return with a new round of consultation, a top union representative has warned.

Dozens of residents at William Street Home and Rectory Field in the Waterside would be effectively “evicted from their home” and up to 50 staff left in limbo if the homes are closed down, Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee.

Carers travel allowance call

Carers travel allowance call

Alan Philson, Joint Branch Secretary of Unison (Foyle) was joined at the meting in Strabane Council office by stewards from different residential homes and community representatives.

Mr Philson outlined how William Street home is a 27 single room facility in the Bogside for people aged 65 and over, while Rectory Field was a 35-bed facility for elderly people.

He warned that a new round of consultation by the Western Health Trust and Health and Social Care Board was imminent, and could end up with Derry having not a single NHS-run care home in the entire city area.

He said that the proposals to close the two Derry homes, plus Greenfield in Strabane, Thackeray in Limavady and 14 others across the north went back to three years ago and sparked a public backlash when they were exposed.

The Western Trust has confirmed to the Journal that as of the start of this week, Monday July 6th, thee were 14 beds occupied at Rectory Field and another 14 beds occupied at William Street.

Consultation on the residential homes in the Western Trust area is expected to be rolled out in late summer.

While Thackery and Greenfield have been granted a “stay of execution”, he told the committee, the two Derry homes were in real danger of being recommended for closure.

Speaking about the staff affected, Mr Philson said: “As a union we will represent them to our best ability but as a community we are looking at residents, families and the bigger picture of how these things are going to affect people.

“This is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. There will be no more residential provision in the city of Derry. We will not have any homes in Derry City unless they are private.”

Mr Philson called on the council to reject any move to close the homes and to lobby their MLAs to fight any cuts to residential services at Assembly level: “The NHS is itself becoming a pensioner and the NHS was designed to be there from the cradle to the grave. It seems like the Trust is selling the family silver.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson urged the council to feed into any consultation, adding:

“I would like to see the criteria applied in the proposal to close these homes,” he said.

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack said her mother had been an care home Officer in Charge, working at William Street, Limavady Road and the former Foyleville home before retiring from Thackeray.

“I know what they are about and the amount of time, consideration and love given to residents. A lot of them don’t have families and you are right- it is putting people out of their own homes because some of them don’t have homes to go to.

“This is cost cutting at the extreme level. They are looking to privatise everything and this is hurting people who are the most vulnerable.

“We also have to think of families- what if they can’t cope, or have to leave their jobs. It is not just one resident, it is the community as well.”

DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock said her party wouldn’t want to see anybody who is in a home put out of their homes.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher said this looked like “another slash and burn cut being implemented”, adding that the council had responsibility towards the people within its area.

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said that he had joined other protesters and residents recently amid anger over proposals to close it and amalgamate Foyleville Day Care Centre with Creggan Day Care Centre.

“The devastation and uncertainty and fear is something that will stay with me for a long time,” he said, adding: “The reality is these homes are being closed down for profit.”

Committee Chairman DUP Councillor Drew Thompson said he was sure the council would use its powers to ensure “the folks on the hill” know of the depth of feeling locally.