'Heartbreaking' decision to close Wynfield House deaf home as charity cash runs out
A cash-strapped charity has made the “heartbreaking” decision to shut a Blackpool care home for the profoundly deaf after 60 years.
The Wynfield House Home for the Deaf will shut down in April, making 17 members of staff redundant and leaving all 10 vulnerable elderly residents in need of new accommodation.
The charity sold its Cornwall Avenue club several years ago in order to raise vital cash to keep the home open but today said it can no longer afford the £455,000 yearly running costs.
Society chairman Peter Hunt said: “It’s heartbreaking, to be honest. I have known most of the residents since they have moved in, and some of them even longer.
“The charity is running low on money, and we had to make the decision. And so we decided that, because four of our residents passed away over Christmas, the care home is no longer viable, and we had to close it.
“It was definitely not a decision that was made lightly.
“The home has not been financially viable for a few years, but the charity has had the money to support it, hoping we could ride through it, but sadly we can’t any more.”
The care home, which was founded in 1960, is specially set up to accommodate its deaf residents, many of whom suffer from dementia.
It is the only specialist facility of its kind in the area, according to the charity which now fears residents will be placed into less suitable accommodation – or forced to move miles away.
Mr Hunt said: “There aren’t any other deaf homes nearby. They are not going to get the help that they need. This is why this home was set up in the first place.
“All our staff know sign language. On the television, the subtitles are always on for them. When we take them out, we always make sure they have an interpreter so they can follow. We go to the signed Pantomime every year.
“They are very vulnerable. Some of them are very frail. At least one of the family members we have notified is very concerned with how vulnerable they are and how they are going to cope. They want to keep them with people they know, but it just won’t happen.”
'Isolated and lonely'
Wynfield House manager Susan Cooke added: “We had children come in from a deaf school in Preston to sing carols for them at Christmas, and they signed along as they sang.
“If the fire alarm is activated, all the residents have vibrating cushions and lights to wake them up. Everything is sensory.
“A lot of our residents came to us from hearing homes, where they were anxious and frustrated. They were isolated. They were very lonely.
“When they came here they engaged. They are assured by the fact that they are within a community and culture of people of the same ilk; they all know each other and it makes them feel secure and like they belong somewhere.
“It gives them a sense of being accepted. They wouldn’t get that in a hearing home because they would be completely isolated.
“People seem to think that if they shout at them they can hear them, but they can’t. They can’t hear anything.”
'I don't want to leave'
John Wallwork, 71, came to live at Wynfield House in 2006 when he was 58-years-old. He is profoundly deaf, and communicates with staff by sign language.
He said: “It’s shocking. It’s disappointing to be leaving them. I don’t know where I’m going.
“I will go to a new home, but I’d prefer to stay here.”
Jackie Shaw, senior carer at Wynfield House, said: “I’m devastated. This is one of the best jobs I have had, plus it’s the only deaf home I know around here.
“The residents are amazing. They do communicate really well.
“My main concern is where they are going to go, and how they are going to cope. They have only really known the staff that are here and that have been here.
“I know it’s sad that it’s coming to an end, but I will be more sad to say goodbye because I will miss then. I will miss them all so much.
“It’s like we have our own little family here. This is their home. It’s all they know.”
Could more have been done?
Plans are being made to find new homes for the 10 profoundly deaf residents affected by the closure.
Blackpool Council said it will do its best to keep residents together if they want.
Manager Susan Cooke said she would have liked more support to stay open.
While the home can set its own charges for private residents, people referred to them by the council pay a fixed cost of £580.83 a week.
Ms Cooke said: “It’s devastating, because we don’t know if more could have been done.
“The council has known we have been struggling for a long time. Now it’s all just tumbled down.
“I think there could have been more support for us. They put a specialist home here for a reason, and that’s gone now, and it will never come back.”
Coun Lynn Williams, Blackpool Council cabinet member for health and adults, said the closure was “regrettable”, adding: “Fee rates to providers are uplifted each year as part of the budget process.
“However, we have tried to provide additional help by working with the home and organising a consultation with the deaf community in an attempt to attract interest and encourage additional occupancy.
“Unfortunately this has not prevented the home from planning to close.
“Our social workers are already working with residents and their families to find alternative accommodation and potential support services that will take into account each individual’s communication needs.”