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Families' frustrating wait for decision on Bangor care home future

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 29/04/2015

Joyce Craig, who was voted Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year, at home with her trophy and son Christopher
Joyce Craig, who was voted Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year, at home with her trophy and son Christopher
Margaret Butler with her son Steven at their Bangor home

Families of loved ones living in a residential care home under threat of closure say they are still living in daily limbo over its future.

Stewart Memorial in Bangor, Co Down, was earmarked for closure last November after it was said it was not financially viable.

But after the owners postponed the closure to carry out three further reports, the families are still waiting for a decision five months later.

Campaigners last week had a meeting with representatives from the South Eastern Health Trust who are involved in funding care packages for residents.

But families told the Belfast Telegraph last night that they were still "in the dark" about exactly what will happen to their loved ones.

Run by Northern Ireland Institute for the Disabled (NIID), it said the key findings of three ongoing reports will be shared with residents before a formal consultation was carried out.

Then a final decision will be taken about the care home which currently has 18 residents,

But Joyce Craig, the mother of 23-year-old resident Christopher, said the families felt they were not getting any clear information.

She is among parents and family campaigning to keep the doors open.

"We are no further on than we were in November. We are still none the wiser as to what is going on," she said.

"We had a meeting with the trust last week.

"They then met the trustees of the charity later that week - but we all need to sit down together."

Ms Craig, who is the Belfast Telegraph Mother of the Year 2015, said her son, who has cerebral palsy, that Stewart Memorial was "a home".

"So many letters have been sent from politicians and us but we have yet to get an official reply," she said. "These assessments still haven't been completed."

Margaret Butler from Bangor, whose 26-year-old son Steven was born with complex physical and psychological healthcare needs, is also frustrated by the lack of information.

"We just can't get talking face to face with the trustees of the charity to let us know what is going on," she said.

"It seems to be a complete breakdown of communication.

"We were all just worried about the lack of information between us, the trust and charity. There is a great deal of frustration."

It comes as it was announced last Friday that John Miskimmon, chief executive of NIID, announced he will retire on June 30.

A spokesman for RIID said Mr Miskimmon's retirement would not affect the timing or outcome of any decision on the future of Stewart Memorial House.

A NIID spokesman said the charity was awaiting receipt of three expert reports.

"Once these are received and have been considered the key findings will be shared with residents and their families prior to a period of formal consultation," he said.

"We anticipate this happening in the next number of weeks.

"No final decision can or will be made on the future of the facility at Stewart Memorial House until the completion of that process."

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "Trust senior managers met with NIID on April 23 and were advised that their organisation is concluding a scoping exercise to inform their decision in regards to the Stewart Memorial service.

"The organisation were not in a position to confirm an exact date when they will meet with residents."

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