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St Elizabeth's families take legal action to win Perry Green care home closure reprieve



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Families of severely disabled people facing the loss of the only home many of them have ever known are taking legal action.

The relatives have accused trustees of St Elizabeth's Centre at Perry Green of breaching the 83 residents' human rights with their decision to shut the doors in November, leaving them with just four months to find alternative accommodation.

Juliet Anderson, chair of the families association behind the action, said the plan to close the adult care home with nursing had been pushed through without consultation and families believed it was unlawful.

St Elizabeth's Centre at Perry Green, near Much Hadham, is a national charity and one of the largest employers in East Herts (58383743)
St Elizabeth's Centre at Perry Green, near Much Hadham, is a national charity and one of the largest employers in East Herts (58383743)

On Tuesday afternoon she accused trustees of "throwing in the towel" instead of supporting residents and said they had 48 hours to respond to a lawyer's letter or the families would press for a judicial review. She said: "We are taking them on."

Almost 3,500 people have signed a petition launched by angry mum Linda Faragher in a desperate attempt to force a rethink. She said she had been humbled by the huge response.

Her daughter Renee, 28, has been a happy resident for almost 17 years. Linda said: "St Elizabeth's is a unique place for unique people."

Billy Byrne from DIY SOS visits St Elizabeth's Centre. (58384000)
Billy Byrne from DIY SOS visits St Elizabeth's Centre. (58384000)

Its country setting and caring staff have given Renee the best environment to cope with complex medical conditions including epilepsy and autism.

While the Care Quality Commission rated the home as 'inadequate' earlier this year, like other families Linda feared the watchdog had been too harsh and failed to take the impact of Covid-19 properly into account.

She said staff shortages were a problem for care homes across the country, but workers at St Elizabeth's had done a sterling job in stressful conditions. She believed the home could regain its 'good' status with the right management and extra resources.

"I feel massively let down by the chief executive officer and the trustees," said Linda. "I think they've taken it upon themselves to make their decision without any thought for the vulnerable people there."

Hertford and Stortford MP outside the Palace of Westminster. Picture: Nikki Powell www.NK-PHOTOGRAPHY (58383856)
Hertford and Stortford MP outside the Palace of Westminster. Picture: Nikki Powell www.NK-PHOTOGRAPHY (58383856)

She said families faced "a mad scramble" to find new placements, but for residents like Renee, she said there was no suitable alternative and it could take years to secure any substitute.

"She will be really unhappy if she has to move. St Elizabeth's has given her freedom and she will not manage in a mainstream home in a busy town."

When the closure was announced, trustees issued a statement blaming "a chronic national shortage of trained staff" for "relentlessly increasing pressure".

They said: "It has become only too clear that we can no longer guarantee the safety of our residents because we cannot recruit and retain sufficient numbers of trained staff.

"It is heartbreaking to have to take this step, but any reduction in the quality of our care is simply not in keeping with our ethos and is a long way from the type of service we have made our name in providing."

A second CQC report is expected imminently. This week, the centre declined to add to its statement. St Elizabeth's residential school and college will remain open.

Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson's constituency includes St Elizabeth's. The Indie asked her last week to comment on the closure plans, both as the residents' representative at Westminster and in her new role as a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, but she has not responded.

As a Government minister responsible for employment, she has been busy at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, heralding the creation of over 35,000 jobs.

* To sign the petition visit www.change.org and search for 'Stop the St Elizabeth Centre of epilespy closure'.



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