Here’s a little story about a new care home that’s opened in Chantry.
A couple of years ago, the County Council decided to separate out its care homes and let them to an outside provider. Why? Because many were old and in need of renewal, and the County did not have the cash or expertise to do the job. Moreover, they were much more expensive to run than other care homes, meaning money was being spent that could have been used to provide more care places for more vulnerable older people.
At the time, quite understandably, it caused residents and their families to be concerned for the future. I talked to many and represented their worries to the council. They listened, and the proposal they came up with was to do a deal with Care UK, who would take over the running of the homes and rebuild the ones that needed to be rebuilt. One of those was the Hawthorn Drive home, which has been part of the community in south-west Ipswich since the Chantry estate was built.
Now, at the time, a very naughty group of local councillors decided to try to play politics with local people’s worries, by putting round a leaflet telling people that Hawthorn Drive was set to close – which was true – but omitting to tell people that it would be replaced by a brand new home round the corner, in Aster Road. That omission was deliberate, and was as bad as an untruth. So the County had to spend a good deal of time reassuring people of their plans – time that could have been spent doing something more worthwhile.
Last week I went to look at the new building, which as of Monday was the new home to the residents of Hawthorn Drive, and will be for many more as it is far larger than the old complex it replaces. It won’t take me long to describe it to you: it is the best care home I have seen in Ipswich or Suffolk, and I have seen a great many. Every resident has their own, large, en suite room, with those on the ground floor having their own little terrace. There is a hair dressing suite, a little cinema, patios and balconies, a lovely large day centre and – as the picture shows – a marvellous in-house coffee shop. The beaming smiles of the staff tell you all you need to know about how excited they are to be opening this new home.
The upshot is that residents previously in Suffolk County Council care homes will, over the next few months, move to some of the best residential care accommodation in the country, in homes that have the space for the growing number of older people needing care in our town. Yes they are run by a private company, but yes they are much better – so why should we care?
Well, one lot who did seem to care have now gone strangely silent. I reckon the recipients of those leaflets are owed an apology. The thing is, that kind of political campaigning is precisely the kind of silliness that puts people off politics and makes them distrust politicians. By all means have an argument over issues of principle and policy – and there are plenty to have – but don’t fib or wind people up without reason, just to squeeze out a few more votes.
So – Chantry’s got an amazing new care home, as will east Ipswich soon as well. Let’s hope everyone, and I mean everyone, tells out the good news, with a “sorry” from those who should have known better.