The battle for Seton Hall’s future goes on

BHA Seaton Hall
BHA Seaton Hall

Opposition to the possible closure of Seton Hall residential care home hits the streets of Berwick next Saturday, June 6, as demonstrators march through the town.

Save Seton Care have planned the march, which leaves the Parade at 1pm and makes its way along Walkergate and down Marygate to the town hall steps where a petition will be handed over to Berwick Mayor Hazel Bettison.

The online petition stands at around 700 signatures and many more have signed paper petitions circulating around the town against the decision by Seton Care, a subsidiary of Berwickshire Housing Association, to start a consultation process about possible closure of the home.

Campaigners describe Seton Hall as “a very important part of our community” employing over 60 staff and providing 42 long term places.

“Many of us have relatives there who are happy and settled,” they say on their online petition site. “Asking the residents to move elsewhere is totally unacceptable.”

BHA chief executive, Helen Forsyth, is concerned about “the misinformation, wrong assumptions and inaccurate statements currently in circulation” since news of the possible closure was made public.

“We are very aware that staff, families and local residents in Berwick are upset by the possibility of the closure of Seton Hall,” she said.

“The truth is very simple. There are three key problems in relation to Seton Hall: the level of vacancies at Seton Hall is rising and the loss of income means we can’t sustain the home; Seton Hall is almost 50 years old, needs replaced and is in a constant state of repair; and thirdly, there is no support from Northumberland County Council for us to build a new home, therefore no lender will offer us the money we need to build this.”

A Care Quality inspection of Seton Hall in January this year concluded that it required improvement - the condition of the building, record keeping and care plans all coming in for criticism. On the plus side inspectors found the staff caring and knowledgeable about people’s needs.

“We have always been completely open and honest about the fact that we had planning permission for a new care home,” said Ms Forsyth adding that Northumberland County Council’s strategic housing and adult service indicated there was “no support for a new residential care home due to current oversupply”.

Extra care housing was considered but also ruled out by the council due to an oversupply of housing in Berwick.

“This makes the planning permission meaningless, as without the support of adult services who purchase the majority of places at Seton Hall, we can’t convince lenders to offer us money to build a new home,” added Ms Forsyth.

“With regard to recent inaccurate speculation about BHA making money by selling land for housing, it is important to emphasise that Berwickshire Housing Association is a not-for-profit organisation, not a speculative developer.

“Nobody at Berwickshire Housing Association wants to close Seton Hall. No decision has been taken yet, and we are still open to finding an alternative to closure.”