'Disgraceful' last-minute closure of Yorkshire care home is temporary, says UNISON

The closure of a care home which suddenly told its residents – some of whom have dementia – they need to move out is only temporary, according to UNISON.

Hazel Garth care home in Knottingley, near Wakefield, contacted the families of its residents on Thursday (May 24) to tell them they need to find accommodation immediately due to a number of issues. However, the issues and the specific reason for the closure have not been made clear.

The residents had some of their belongings put into bin bags and little warning was given to the residents ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend.

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Last November, a report said the care home needed urgent upgrade works, including new fire doors as well as other maintenance carried out. Hazel Garth was not allowed to accept new residents to the 24-bed care home until the work was carried out.

Residents were suddenly moved out of Hazel Garth care home for people with dementia. Picture Scott MerryleesResidents were suddenly moved out of Hazel Garth care home for people with dementia. Picture Scott Merrylees
Residents were suddenly moved out of Hazel Garth care home for people with dementia. Picture Scott Merrylees

The union UNISON said it had constructive talks with Wakefield Council, which has now made three guarantees following a day of discussion. The council has said the care home will reopen after completion of the repairs, jobs will be safe in the interim and there will be no compulsory redundancies.

UNISON has also requested a meeting with the council’s corporate director to get a full schedule of the work being carried out at Hazel Garth and a timescale for completion.

Wakefield branch secretary Sam Greenwood said: “Rumours around the future of Hazel Garth have been very unsettling. There’s been uncertainty for residents and staff alike. That’s why it’s been so encouraging that the leader of Wakefield Council engaged in proper talks with UNISON, and the union has been able to secure guarantees on the care home’s future, putting the speculation to bed.”

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UNISON Wakefield branch chair Dave Evans said: “This clarity from Wakefield Council is a great example of why clear, meaningful discussions with unions are so important. UNISON has called for further meetings with the council to keep a clear dialogue during the work at Hazel Garth, so those directly affected are kept up to date with clear information.”

Deanne Ferguson, GMB organiser, said: "This is a disgraceful way to treat vulnerable residents - and dedicated staff. Putting residents' possessions into bin bags, and giving staff no warning, shows a stunning lack of respect. Residents and their families - alongside staff and their trade unions - will fight against the potential mothballing of this loved community residential home."

Dave Hercock’s mother-in-law is a resident at the home and his wife drove north from their home in Surrey when they were informed.

Mr Hercock said: “It just came right out of the blue, there was no indication at all. My wife is heartbroken and cannot believe they can treat vulnerable people like this."

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Mr Hercock was told that problems with fire doors were the reason behind the decision and that staff were unaware up until the point the decision was made.

Wakefield Council said there were a combination of reasons that led to the move including residents’ needs, staffing and building issues, though it did not confirm the fire door explanation.

The local authority said it understood people would be upset and said it would take the best care of residents during the process.

Jo Webster, corporate director adults, health and communities at Wakefield Council, said “We’re very sorry that we’ve had to move those we’ve been caring for at Hazel Garth. The safety and wellbeing of everyone in our care homes will always be our top priority. And at the moment, the level of care we can give will be higher in alternative accommodation.

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“This is due to a combination of factors. Including the dependency needs of residents combined with the physical condition of the building and the availability of appropriately trained staff. There is a dedicated team in place to support the move. And we’re working with the residents and their families to find a suitable alternative home for them.

“We promise to continue taking the very best possible care of our residents during the move.”

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