'We are united': Mary Feilding Guild residents protest care home closure
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Residents from Mary Feilding Guild in Highgate say their lives have been “shattered” after finding out their care home was suddenly closing down.
The elderly, aged between 85 and 104, made a united stand on Monday (March 29) as they rallied against the “disgraceful” closure that was announced in March by its new owner, Highgate Care.
They were joined in support by members of the local community including Catherine West MP, Cllr Liz Morris, the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, and local church leaders.
Residents, who are asking to be given more time to find a new home, have been told to leave by the end of May.
Dr Jean Scott, 88, said: “The difficulties of finding a new place under Covid restrictions apparently have not been taken into account by the new owner and must not be underestimated.
“We have not been allowed out since last March. Any home hunting must take place using the internet or by proxy.
“If we go out ourselves we face 10 days of isolation. 'Shopping around' is not practicable, and the owner's timing makes this closure particularly egregious.
“As is to be expected our physical and mental health have been affected,” Jean continued.
“People's sleep patterns have been disrupted, blood pressure has risen and we are experiencing signs of stress.
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“I believe such an experience can have long term affects and I am particularly concerned about our more vulnerable members.”
The 88-year-old called for an investigation into the roles in the sale of the previous owner, the Mary Feilding Guild charity; the new proprietor, Highgate Care; the Charity Commission and the Care Quality Commission.
The former head of computer science at City University called for residents and care workers to be compensated for their costs in moving homes, or trying to find a new job.
"We are a united band,” she said.
Rev Timothy Miller, from All Saints’ Church, criticised the “constant reassurance” of the new owner that the care home would stay the same.
“Residents are being treated as if the three months they’ve been given to move is a kind grace, rather than realising the fact that their whole life is now in upheaval,” Rev Miller said.
Rev David Currie, minister of Pond Square Chapel, said he was “shocked and appalled” at the treatment of Highgate’s elderly “at the most difficult time”.
The Highgate Society said it was “extremely concerned and disturbed” by the closure, and that alternative options should be proposed to allow residents to stay at the home, if it is to be redeveloped.
Committee papers from Haringey Council show pre-planning application discussions for the building’s demolition and redevelopment as a new 72-bed care home.
Alicia Pivaro, chair of the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, said the said new owner hadn’t made a “great start”, and that it “seemed to be acting without care or consideration for those at the home and the wider community”.
A letter from the National Pensioners Convention, addressed to Haringey Council, called for a pause to residents’ eviction, and for the town hall to investigate the actions of the new owner.
Cllr Liz Morris (Lib Dem, Highgate) said residents were being “chucked out unceremoniously”, as she challenged why they weren’t allowed longer to find a new home, with any redevelopment works, subject to approved planning permission, likely to take many months – or longer – to begin.
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West called the closure “absolutely disgraceful”, but said she drew strength from the local community’s support for residents.
Both Ms West and Cllr Morris urged Highgate Care to guarantee that future plans for the site – which has served Highgate since the 1950s – would include a care home, and not be turned into private flats.
A spokesperson for Highgate Care said its intention remained to create a new care home on the site – which it claimed currently “fails to meet 21st century standards” – and that all 16 residents had identified alternative accommodation.
“We respect the rights of the local community, our residents and their families to engage in peaceful and safe protests but our decision remains and will not be reversed,” the spokesperson said.
“Closing the home was always going to be an unpopular and difficult decision and we have tremendous sympathy for residents and their predicament.
“We have considered a number of possibilities over the past year since the sale was first agreed to try and keep the home operational, but none of them are viable.”
A spokesperson for trustees of the Mary Feilding Guild said it was "shocked", as it claimed the charity was not given any forewarning of the new owner's plans to close the home.
"The Trust had decided to donate the proceeds to other charities which share its aims," the spokesperson said.
"The Trustees have offered to make some of those funds available to staff and residents who face genuine hardship as a result of what happened."