Cornwall Council has met with the Abbeyfield Society to discuss the future of four homes in the county which provide sheltered accommodation for elderly people.

Properties in Bude, Callington, St Austell and Falmouth are among 43 across the UK facing closure due to “unmanageable ongoing costs”.

Cllr Nicky Chopak, councillor for Poundstock near Bude, shared a letter from Kate Alcock, Cornwall Council’s head of strategic commissioning - older people physical disability and carers, on social media.

Ms Alcock said the council had formally written to The Abbeyfield Society’s chief executive officer asking for confirmation of their detailed plan for the continued support of the individual residents.

“Our adult social care teams have been working with Abbeyfield to understand the care and support needs of residents at the homes and the type of support that is provided to them,” Ms Alcock wrote. “The services provided at Abbeyfield are officially classed at Sheltered Accommodation with onsite support that includes daily meals. We recognise how residents will depend on that support, and as such we are working with the provider to ensure there is an appropriate solution.

“We have now formally written to The Abbeyfield Society’s Chief Executive Officer to ask for confirmation of their detailed plan for the continued support of the individual residents.”

She added: “We have set out our concerns that rental income does not seem to have been used to keep the properties at the required standard and asked for more information about this when we next meet.

“They have now responded to reassure us that they continue to work with other organisations including other Registered Providers and the local Abbeyfield services to find a potential solution for the future of the four sites. This includes more detailed work on understanding the actual cost of making the essential repairs and updates to ensure current and future compliance.

“We are clear that Abbeyfield need to find the solution to this problem, not least because residents have paid significant rents, which should be sufficient to cover the repairs and maintenance of the properties.

“We know this must be a worrying time for residents and our priority is to minimise any disruption to their lives and to support them to stay living in their home wherever possible.

“The council’s commissioning team met the Abbeyfield CEO and his team on August 9. We are also in contact with commissioners from Devon, who are in a similar position.”

A spokesperson for Abbeyfield confirmed the council had been provided with a “very extensive” financial breakdown, including demonstrating that it had spent £475,000 on maintenance work at its Cornish homes over the past three years, in addition to the costs covered by the monthly service charge. 

The spokesperson said it had also provided the council and residents with a detailed breakdown of the expenditure needed to ensure the properties are maintained to a good standard and meet forthcoming regulatory requirements — a total of just over £2-million for the four homes over the next five years. 

“The decision to consult on the future of some of our homes is not one we wanted to make, but reflects the significant challenges facing charitable housing providers like us,” said the spokesperson.

“Before we started the process, we completed a detailed long-term viability study that looked at future costs compared to future income. Sadly, for the four Cornish homes, this review concluded that there was no way for our charity to provide the level of funding needed in a financially sustainable way.

“This reflects that the past few difficult years have significantly impacted the organisation’s finances, particularly navigating the COVID pandemic, the huge increase in energy prices, rising inflation, and rapidly increasing operating costs.

“Our goal throughout the consultation process has always been to find a solution that will keep these homes open and serving their communities. To that end, we have engaged in detail with Cornwall Council, including attending a useful and constructive meeting on August 9.

“We fully acknowledge the impact this consultation, and any potential outcomes, will have on our residents and colleagues in particular. We will be doing everything we can to support them through this difficult process whilst we work to find a long-term solution.”

Replying, local resident Steph Jones-Giles said: “I really hope that Cornwall Council are instrumental in keeping the place open and everyone together.

“My friend pays just under £1,900 a month for her place there. The residents feel like a family group and it is devastating that Abbeyfield are considering splitting them up. They have the perfect level of support for them and are fond of the housekeepers.

“Why hasn’t resident rent money been reinvested in the property they actually live in? It has been obvious that upgrading is necessary. Where is the forward planning and what was/is the money spent on?”