FAMILIES of residents at two Stroud care homes earmarked for closure have started a petition to fight the plans.

The planned closure of Southfield and Wyatt House care homes was announced by landlord Gloucestershire County Council three weeks ago, and on July 24 its cabinet will decide on whether to go ahead.

The council says the reducing number of residents at the two homes and outdated dementia facilities have made the closures necessary – but residents, and their families, disagree, and have started a petition which has more than 2,000 signatures so far.

Yesterday, a group of relatives of residents gathered outside.

Sally Powell, whose 78-year-old mum is a resident at Wyatt House, said: "The council contends that Wyatt House isn't fit for purpose, that it's not wheelchair accessible and lacks essential en-suite rooms, but from what I read of the Care Quality Commission's report of October 2018, inspectors praised the design of the building, saying it was particularly suitable for people with dementia and there was no mention of wheelchair inaccessibility nor a problem with the rooms not being en-suite."

Ivan Smith, whose 92-year-old mum is a Wyatt House resident, said it was a "great home" for her.

"It is a place of care and compassion – this building is just so conducive to creating that with its fantastic central garden teeming with wildlife," he added. "But, yes, it could do with some routine maintenance."

Both homes are run by the Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT) which, alongside social housing association bpha, makes up the Gloucestershire Care Partnership (GCP).

Linda Phillips, who has a 97-year-old resident at Southfield in Park Road, Stroud, said: "The GCP has asserted that Southfield needs to be closed because it is not full, but it is only in shortfall by three residents. Is that really sufficient reason to close or is there another pressing reason such as a financial element at play?"

Sally Powell added: "The GCP wrote to us that they want to 'work together' but the extent of the information provided to us has been a two-page document offering no detail and no strategy. It's poor form that when facing such a major community decision, you are only given two pages."

Families said they were given just 24 hours to attend a first meeting in which their views were collated in order for two reports to be submitted for the July 24 GCC cabinet meeting.

These reports were to be written on behalf of the residents and families by independent consultants. Families were then invited to attend a second meeting last Thursday.

"A letter of invite was sent to us stating that before the report was to be published, we would be invited to a further meeting to discuss its content and recommendations, but this did not happen," added Mrs Powell.

"The two independent representatives who led and listened to concerns at the first meeting did not attend the second meeting."

Instead, James Cawley from GCC's Adult Social Care, led the meeting.

"He opened the meeting by apologising to attendees that he had not received the reports and therefore could not discuss their contents," added Mr Smith.

Sue Pockett, whose mother is a resident at Southfield, said. "We are talking about an enormous life change for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, yet the GCP has no idea as to the actual needs of the individuals in question."

However, a county council spokesman said that an assessment of the impact on each resident and their care needs will be carried out in a 12-week consultation period should the GCC cabinet decide to close the homes at the July 24 meeting.

Families say they have received no clarity from the council as to where they can relocate their parents. "They always talk countywide and, frustratingly, they won't talk specifics but it's likely people will be housed out of Stroud," says Mrs Powell.

"To move these vulnerable individuals at such an advanced age and stage of illness is tantamount to a death sentence," said Mr Smith. "We will be holding the GCP and the GCC to account for the results of the move."

County councillor Lesley Williams (Labour, Stonehouse) said she feared for residents and staff at the two homes.

"Several sources have suggested that the engagement process has been unsatisfactory and this is an area of questioning that I will submit with the cabinet papers, but my biggest concern is the effect upon the people whose homes these places have been and then for the staff upon which the uncertainty of their employment hangs over them," she said.

Cllr Roger Wilson, county council cabinet member for adult social care commissioning, said: "I want to thank residents and their families for taking the time to speak to us over the past few weeks; we recognise that these are people's homes and this is a difficult time for them. If cabinet do take the decision to close the homes, our priority is to make sure that they receive the best care and support throughout the transition.

"We are spending more money to support older people in our county than ever before but we need to make sure that this money pays for high quality care and not for empty beds. We are also recommending that if any money is made from these two homes it will be ring fenced for older people in the future."

The online petition against the closure of the homes can be found here.

The council reports relating to the closure plans, for the cabinet meeting, can be found here.