LARNE residents are being urged to make their voices heard on controversial plans for the future of residential care homes.
The plans, published following the release of the Compton Review last December, recommended “major changes” and “alternatives” to the 11 residential homes in the Northern Trust area.
One of the facilities facing closure is Lisgarel in Larne. As a replacement, the Trust is proposing using charity and voluntary services to deliver care in the community and in patient’s own homes.
And Claire Armstrong, whose aunt is a patient in the local care facility, is encouraging the public to have their say on the proposals “before it is too late”.
Claire, who works in the voluntary sector, was involved in the successful public lobby to save Lisgarel from closure back in 2006.
She told the Times: “I am concerned people do not know about these proposals. They have come about because the Compton Review said people wanted to be cared for in their own homes and that’s what the health service should be providing for.
“Of course if you ask someone if they would rather be treated in their own home or taken to a residential home, it is obvious what their answer would be.
“But that does not mean you should close residential homes altogether. Not everyone can be treated in their own home and not everyone has a home to be treated in.
“There is a real need for more residential care homes, but instead the reaction is to close the facilities. They say this is not about money, but about supporting people. But in my experience when statutory services are reduced and voluntary organisations replace them, their funding soon dries up.”
Claire was full of praise for the facilities and staff at Lisgarel. “The care is fantastic, the staff incredible and the food excellent, they are not-for-profit organisations and as a result the standard is very high,” she added.
“For most people there is a real fear of the private sector. The Trust is proposing moving care into the community - in people’s homes - by using voluntary and community organisations. It is the private sector they will be using, but they won’t say it. Essentially people will end up needing lottery funding to have someone come out to their house every day.”
Claire now hopes people will take the time to read the proposals and make their opinions known through local elected representatives and to the Trust itself.
In the coming weeks the Patient Client Council, which represents the views of those using the health service, will be running a series of information sessions throughout Northern Ireland to let people know of changes to the Trust’s services. The public can attend and put their views to a senior health service panel.
But Coast Road Councillor James McKeown has hit out at the Trust’s decision not to hold an information session locally.
“The Patient and Client Council will be hosting roadshow events in September and October, yet not one of the locations listed is in the East Antrim constituency. I am utterly disappointed and surprised at this unbelievable omission,” he added.
The Trust has said there will be a “widely publicised” consultation process on changes to residential care.