Council officials are recommending to a Planning committee meeting next week, that a flat in the Gale Farm Court sheltered accommodation building – which is provided for the use of elderly residents – be converted into a housing office.
Officials claim that it is the only “rent free” option available
them in Acomb. Currently they rent a room at the Gateway Centre (and the Foxwood
Acomb lost its housing office about 8 years ago. That was a bad move, which prompted a divide between housing managers and the largest concentration of social tenants in the City.
It had been intended to
provide a replacement as part of a “one stop shop” extension to the Acomb library
but that project stalled. Land to the rear of the library had been purchased by
the Council but has remained derelict for over 10 years.
Officials have promised to revive the Acomb Library plan as part of a £2 million refurbishment project. However senior managers ion the housing department say they can’t wait for that work to be competed
At a time when the largest number of people on the housing waiting
list are those requiring one bedroomed accommodation, it seems illogical to
take an existing home out of use.
The office could be in use 12 hours a day and it could prove
to be a difficult neighbour for the several dozen elderly people who live on the
There is also a concern about car parking. Official calm
that users will walk to the office but experience elsewhere suggests that this may
not be the case.
Cllr Andrew Waller is the local Councillor leading the call for
a rethink. He is right to do so.
There is empty property In the Front Street pedestrian area which
could be rented until a permanent new location for a Council office can be
found. Any increase in footfall in the main shopping area would be welcomed by
both traders and residents.
Appropriating scarce residential accommodation is not the
right solution for the Councils office problem.
Originally the plan had been to offer residents places at a brand-new care village which was to have been built on the former Lowfields school site. That project is running 5 years behind schedule and does not yet even have planning permission.
Another option – to replace the facility on the Oakhaven site – also is runningbehind schedule.
The Council is putting most of its effort and money into the east of the city. The sale of the Windsor House site – and parcels of land at Lowfields – will be used to finance a big home and leisure complex at Burnholme.
Windsor House residents, and their relatives, are likely to be very angry if places cannot be provided in Acomb to ensure that links with families and friends are sustained.
Some of the 34 members of staff at the home may face redundancy although, as there is a chronic shortage of care staff in the City, most will have a choice of alternative jobs should they choose to remain in the sector.
The closure would mean that the last Council run elderly persons home in the Westfield Ward would close. There is a private home on Gale Lane.
The sheltered accommodation at places like Gale Farm and Lincoln Court are not directly affected by the decision.
Care and support services at City of York Council’s Sheltered Accommodation with Extra Care facilities has been described as ‘good’ by independent inspectors
The Personal Support Services (PSS), which offers care services to a number of tenants at Glen Lodge, Barstow House, Marjorie Waite Court and Gale Farm Court, was assessed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in January. It was described as ‘safe, effective, caring and responsive’ by the team of inspectors, who spoke to tenants and members of staff as part of their visit.
Comments from customers included: “I feel safe because they’re [the carers] are so efficient.”; “The care workers are very professional in everything they do.” “The carers and very good and considerate. They always look after me well and are most kind and careful.”
Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health, City of York Council, said: “I’m pleased that the inspection has highlighted so many areas of good practice in the care and support provided at our sheltered housing accommodation. It’s particularly heartening to see so many positive comments from customers about the care they receive.
“Extending the existing facilities at Glen Lodge and creating additional purpose-built Sheltered Accommodation across the city is a key part of our plans to improve accommodation for older people in the city and I’m delighted that our existing services are rated as ‘good’. I’d like to thank all the staff for their continued hard work and dedication.”
Meals at Gale Farm Court will be restarting in January following pressure from residents and new Westfield Councillor Andrew Waller.
Gale Farm Court Affected by meals decision
The new service will be supplied via Age UK (formerly Age Concern) with freshly made meals being prepared daily.
The Council announced in September that it was scrapping the lunchtime meal option at its sheltered establishments. The move was heavily criticised for lack of consultation and it later emerged that the cost saving measure had been prompted by criticism of the quality of food provided by the previous contractor.
The Council hoped to save £50,000 by cutting meals services at its elderly persons establishments
Residents had thought that the Council were negotiating with other supplers and were stunned when the decision to scrap the service was made on 3rd September.
Despite appeals the meals stopped on 1st October – leaving residents too little time to appoint another supplier.
The Labour Cabinet member (Cunningham–Cross) refused to reply to Andrew Waller when he wrote, on behalf of residents, to ask for an extension to allow enough time for a new system to be worked out.
Andrew Waller commented
“The new meals have been chosen by the residents, and they are pleased that the Council no longer manages the contract.
Instead they are now in control and can take problems up directly with John O’Brien who is running the meals system.
It is sad that the Council treat residents of Gale Farm Court (and the other three sheltered homes run by the Council) so badly, and I hope that lessons have been learned for the future.
The Council has admitted to me that the situation was badly handled.”
The incident has parallels with the muddle over the future of the Castlegate centre for young people. There the Council was forced to reverse a closure decision earlier in the week and admitted that it had failed to consult properly on options.
The residents of Gale Farm Court, the sheltered accommodation unit for older people which is located on Front Street, have come up with a novel way of making better use of their community room.
They are offering free use of the room – which can accommodate up to 40 people – to local groups who need a meeting space.
The residents will permit free use of the room with priority being given to groups who might let residents join in with their activities.
Obviously this offer is likely to be of particular interest to craft, further education and discussion groups who are in need of additional participants, but it may also go some way to satisfying the demand for space at places like Energise and the Library which are sometimes over subscribed.
Any group that is interested should communicate their details and requirements to:
Residents had been led to believe that the council was sorting out a better contract for the meals – but on 3rd September a letter was sent by the council to say that the meals were being stopped on 1st October
Residents do not have kitchens – indeed residents took on their flats on the understanding that they would have communal meal arrangements.
The letter had followed months of consultation where residents were led to believe that the council was simply sorting out a better provider- following complaints about the quality and unreliability of orders. The Council leader James Alexander had been approached in February at the “Westfield Community Conversation” event and had claimed that he wanted to sort the problem out!
Andrew Waller has been working with residents and companies who want to provide a service which means that residents don’t need to eat in isolation in their own flats. On behalf of the residents he wrote to Cabinet Councillor Lindsey Cunningham Cross to request that the old system continued until there had been a new one developed – in response she said that she would not comment on whether the scheme would or would not cease on 1st October…. until the 16th October.
Residents found out the hard way that the council was not going to budge.
Some taster sessions have been run by companies who want to bid for the work, but these have taken place after the council had stopped the communal meals. Andrew will be pressing with residents that a sustainable solution is brought forward.
Andrew said “The treatment of the residents of Gale Farm Court has been shocking. The axing of the service came out of the blue, and it seemed like the council had already written off the prospect of a replacement even before they sent out the letters at the beginning of September. I know that Cllr Lynn Jeffries had been working with the residents for months to get better meals.
Residents in council sheltered schemes deserve to be treated with respect by the council. They should have worked to provide a new solution before axing the old. It seems that the council is saying that it is trying to tackle social isolation in the area .. but actually does the opposite in practise. I am pleased that the residents have not taken this lying down, and have been pressing for a solution that they are able to choose a solution”.
Gale Farm Court residents offered hope by Andrew Waller
Gale Farm Court
Andrew Waller has stepped into the controversy surrounding Labours decision to stop lunch time meals at Gale Farm Court.
Andrew is trying to involve local cafes and the library in providing an alternative service.
“Residents have asked for the quality of their meals to be improved so that there was a greater take-up and costs could be controlled. Some even raised that issue with the council leader in the Community Conversation on 13th February.
Little did they know that by raising dissatisfaction with the quality of their meals that this would result in the council axing the service”
Numbers taking the meals at Gale Farm Court had dwindled due to poor perceived quality and value for money from the current provider, with some residents often getting different food to what they had offered. Some residents have not had a choice to cook for themselves due to their personal circumstances, and this is a huge let down for them.
Meeting together for meals was an effective way to reduce isolation which has been highlighted as a problem in the local area by a number of agencies including the Joseph Rowntree Trust.
Attempts had been made through Acomb Alive! to engage with local Acomb cafes and restaurants to provide alternatives which were more popular – there was a trial on 13th July with a local provider which was well supported by residents.
The expectation was that this was going to be developed to provide a range of meals which better met resident’s demands, with support for local businesses being a mutual support.
Instead there may now be too little time to sort this out which is very disappointing.
A more open process should have been adopted from the beginning and yet again residents are left feeling that decisions are being made behind closed doors forced as a result of the poor spending controls of the current council”.