Belfast Telegraph

Families left in limbo as cuts close Stewart Memorial House care home for disabled adults

By Joanne Sweeney and Victoria O'Hara

The shock closure of a highly regarded care home for disabled adults has left families in limbo, it has been claimed.

Relatives of residents of Stewart Memorial House in Bangor, Co Down, have been told that it is to close within a year as it is not financially viable.

The decision, made on Monday, has taken relatives of its 18 residents by complete surprise.

Now they are calling on Health Minister Jim Wells to intervene to keep the home open for the residents, whose £577-a-week care costs are mostly met by the South Eastern Health Trust.

In a statement issued on behalf of the facility last night, it said it was closing "due to the extremely challenging NI economic situation impacting on the funding available for the services provided by the Home".

It said it would be working with health trusts to find alternative placements for residents.

However, it is understood the closure is not connected to the current round of cuts affecting all health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

Stewart Memorial House is the only part of Strickland Care Village earmarked for closure.

Newtownards man Tony McMullan spoke out of behalf of his sister Maureen (58), who has profound learning and physical disabilities.

"It's very unsettling and we wonder if everything has been done to find the necessary funding. Ideally we want the home to remain open - it's a wonderful facility and the staff are excellent," he said.

Caroline Brooker is concerned for the future care of her son Timothy (34), a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who has been living at Stewart Memorial for seven years.

The 64-year-old, who lives in Newtownabbey and cares for an adult daughter with Down's syndrome at home, said: "This closure will be terrible, the pressure that it puts on parents to take them home to try and manage is one thing but for the ones who can't do it, you are left out in the open wondering what you can do."

Margaret Butler, from Bangor, has a 26-year-old son who was born with complex physical and psychological health care needs.

She said she was now "worried sick" after the news, but the families would fight the decision.

"I am just shocked," Margaret said. "We spent so long finding a new place to meet Steven's needs. He was so happy and now we are left in limbo again. No parent or their child should have to go through this emotional rollercoaster," she said.

DUP MLA Peter Weir said the closure would have a "devastating impact" on the residents and their families.

"It's very concerning that a number of vulnerable people with disabilities seem to be left in a very difficult situation," he said. "I strongly believe that this a facility that should be maintained."

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