CARE charity Hft have put their plans to close a group home in Furlong Close, Rowde, on hold, bowing to pressure from families and Rowde residents.

Families of residents, who have a variety of learning disabilities, had been left reeling after plans were announced to close the home next June.

Now those plans are now on hold, with a review planned by Wiltshire Council, after Hft acknowledged the “strength of feeling” against the closure plans.

Emma Bagley, divisional director for Hft south west, said: “We are acutely aware of the concerns and the strength of feeling around the closure of Furlong Close. We also understand the pandemic is adding to the anxiety of families and some of the people we support at Rowde, and we these are difficult times for everyone involved.

“We welcome the proposal from Wiltshire Council to review the closure date due to the second wave of the pandemic. We are grateful for the commitment of additional resources from the local authority which means we are able to continue to run this service for the duration of the process. However, it is not our long term intention to run a campus style service at the site.

“We are grateful to Wiltshire Council for reconsidering the decision to allow external day service users back to the service. We will review existing risk assessments to determine if and how this can be done in a COVID-safe way.”

MP Danny Kruger, who is backing the families, said: “I am very pleased that HFT have decided to abandon their plans to close Furlong Close next summer, and I pay tribute to the families who have forced this rethink. I hope that those who would benefit from staying at Furlong Close will be able to live out their lives there.”

A petition against the closure of Hft Rowde, started by Amanda Humphreys, had garnered a mighty 2,500 signatures.

Cllr Simon Jacobs, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care said: “We welcome the decision by Hft not to close their site in Rowde in June 2021. HfT now recognise It has been important to listen to the concerns raised by families and assess the risks of moving residents during the pandemic and so we support their decision.

“Hft and Wiltshire Council believe that a campus-style model of care is not the best long term option and this is endorsed by the statutory inspection body, CQC. We appreciate this is unsettling for residents and their families and will continue to carry out care act assessments to assess the needs of residents. Where residents wish to move and it is in the best interests to do so Wiltshire Council will support them to do this when it is safe to do so given the current pandemic.

“Once this process is complete we will have taken into account the wishes and feelings of all of the residents. We hope at this point HfT will undertake a consultation with residents and their families on future options for the site and we will support HfT, residents, their families and carers with this process.

“The day services have been closed as a result of the pandemic, following Public Health England guidance. Hft is the provider of day services so must decide on provision.

They will carry out a risk assessment for all service users who accessed the day service and Wiltshire Council will support the outcome of those risk assessments.”

However, families have hit back at Cllr Jacob's statement.

A spokeswoman for the families said: “It does not address the underlying issues which affect the safety and long-term happiness and security of severely learning disabled adults who have been told they are going to have to leave their long-term homes and friends.

"The families are calling for the current closure decision to be withdrawn, the assessments to be halted until the pandemic is over and for residents to be given genuine choice in where they wish to live, including the choice to stay in their own homes free of the threat of removal."