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Tunbridge Wells care home faces axe as funding is stretched

By Kent and Sussex Courier  |  Posted: February 25, 2013

END OF AN ERA? Sunset Lodge Care Home, Salvation Army, in Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells may have to close its doors

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A CARE home in Tunbridge Wells faces the "painful" decision to close after 68 years, blaming the cost of subsidising council-funded residents.

Sunset Lodge on Pembury Road which is run by the Salvation Army, has been part of the community since 1945. But two weeks ago it broke the bad news to "shocked and upset" staff and residents at the Salvation Army.

A statement said "for some time now we have been struggling to bridge the financial gap" between what Kent County Council paid for residents and the true cost of caring for them.

Director of older people's services at the church and charity, Elaine Cobb told the Courier: "For every local authority resident that the Salvation Army takes, it is then having to subsidise that care. The difference between the two is substantial and the amount of money the Salvation Army has to invest each year in keeping Sunset Lodge open is very high and unsustainable. That leads us to this really painful decision. They had to consider going forward and the costs year on year and the prohibitive costs if we were to try and develop it. The leadership feel we need to put the facts before the staff and relatives and residents and bring a period of consultation about it. But it looks as though we might have to close but I would stress we are in consultation."

She said Kent County Council paid approximately £348 a week for each person it placed at Sunset Lodge, but the true cost of residency was nearer £567.

Mrs Cobb said the 22-bed home had been adapted over the years but none of the rooms was en-suite, which put off private residents.

"That is one of the factors because it is unattractive as a proposition. We were getting fewer and fewer people who were self-funding," she said.

The council policy of keeping the elderly in their own homes for longer, had also affected them, she said. There are only 15 residents at Sunset Lodge and 11 are local authority-funded.

"Sunset Lodge is a lovely home and the quality of care is very high. That's why it's with a heavy heart we have reached this decision. We think there is a place for Christian churches in the private sector, because we want to deliver care.

"Obviously, the residents are upset and I understand that because the prospect of finding another placement is very sad and distressing."

She said the 23 staff were upset at the prospect of not being able to care for the residents in the future.

Kent County Council's head of strategic commissioning, Christy Holden, said: "Kent County Council pays care homes for individuals at a price agreed between the council and the provider. The council offered care homes support in reviewing their costs to identify any significant shortfalls of fundings."

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