PRESSURE is growing among those fighting over the future of Furlong Close and its unknown closure date.

The care facility, in the village of Rowde, is home to 34 disabled people, and has been earmarked for closure.

Impassioned relatives of residents have now formed an official group, the Families and Friends of Furlong Close, to raise awareness of their situation.

Chairman Antonia Field, whose brother lives at Furlong Close, has written an open letter to both Wiltshire Council and Hft Rowde.

She said: “It is now three months since Hft announced to shocked residents, staff and families of Furlong Close that the residential care home in Rowde would close by the end of June 2021 and still we have had no coherent explanation as to when, how or why this decision has been reached.

“We have heard nothing from Wiltshire Council beyond denials of involvement in that decision and platitudes about hoping to find a way forward to allow some residents to remain in their own homes in the future.

“Hft’s closure plan, which Hft claims is in response to the CQC policy, will, if it goes ahead, not merely disrupt, but devastate the lives of many of the residents and significantly threaten their mental and physical wellbeing.”

A judicial review over the situation at Furlong Close is now underway, with witness statements being gathered from across those connected to the care facility.

Weeks of campaigning, including a crowdfunder for legal action and a petition calling for a reversal of the closure decision, have garnered interest from across the UK and worldwide.

It is not just relatives and residents who are fighting the decision.

Noël Woolrych, Labour candidate for Devizes East in the coming May elections, told the Gazette: “Like many people I have been following the developments surrounding Hft Rowde (Care Rowde to those of us with long memories) and Wiltshire Council. This residential community, which is held in high esteem by the wider community, has been plagued by distressing uncertainties.

"If we accept that Hft & Wiltshire Council are responsible social care providers, how come we have witnessed “buck passing” from one organisation to another.

Wiltshire Times: NoelNoel

“It is not unreasonable to accept that the cost of social care is a high-cost enterprise and a review of service provision is also reasonable.

“However, since the review was announced there seems to have been nothing but confusion and counter claim. This is distressing for the residents, their relatives, and carers, and I would appeal to both sides to be open and transparent.

“I welcome the decision to delay any precipitous action. A properly constituted consultation would be in order once the current COVID conditions are over and an equitable solution arrived at; for every problem there is a solution.”

Conservative Cllr Simon Jacobs, WC cabinet member for adult social care said: “HFT are the decision makers regarding the future of Furlong Close however we are continuing to work closely with HFT to seek clarity on their intentions for the site going forward.

"We continue to work with residents and their families to provide assurances and hear their wishes and feelings regarding the future of Furlong Close.”

Emma Bagley, Hft’s divisional director for the south west, explained: “We understand and are fully aware of the ongoing concerns around the provision of our service at Furlong Close. However, we are unable to comment on individual circumstances or specific legal issues at this time.

"We appreciate this is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone involved and we are committed to communicating with the relevant parties and individuals concerned directly as soon as we are able to.”

Wiltshire Times: The villagers of Rowde oppose the closure. Photo taken before lockdownThe villagers of Rowde oppose the closure. Photo taken before lockdown

In the final paragraph of her letter to Wiltshire Council and Hft Rowde, Ms Field wrote: “In the absence of any acceptable explanation We call on everyone and anyone who has a heart to demand that this decision is ditched and that Furlong Close can continue to provide the safety and security of a happy home life for 34 severely disabled people in the residential close where they live as fully accepted, integrated members of the Rowde village community.”