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Wayfarers care home in Sandwich will close and residents will move to Westbrook House, Margate

ByCiaran Duggan, local democracy reporter

A decision to close a town's last remaining care home has been described as a “mistake” in a crunch meeting.

Kent County Council’s adult social care cabinet committee voted in favour of shutting down Wayfarers care home in Sandwich.

It has been confirmed that Wayfarers in St Barts Road, Sandwich will close
It has been confirmed that Wayfarers in St Barts Road, Sandwich will close

The home’s 14 elderly residents will be relocated over the next few months, some to an unused wing of Westbrook House near Margate. Others could move to alternative care or family homes.

Cllr Sue Chandler (Con) said the retention of Wayfarers was “not the right way forward” but Cllr John Burden (Lab) disagreed, saying: “To give up the unit is a mistake.”

The fate of more than 40 members of staff at Wayfarers remains uncertain but the committee was told that there would only be a “minimal” number of redundancies, with many expected to be redeployed to other KCC departments.

Wayfarers, in St Bart’s Road, is a detached, 33-bed unit built in 1983 and registered for older people with “general frailty” for respite or long term care.

The future of the council-owned facility has been considered on at least three occasions since October 2010. Two attempts to sell it as a “going concern” failed.

'To give up the unit is a mistake' - Cllr John Burden (Lab)

Since 2015, Wayfarers has seen a sharp drop in the numbers of residents. Around 35 residents were based there four years ago but that has dropped to just 14 and means the home is operating at 42% of its capacity.

The care home also lacks en-suite facilities and the unit cost of Wayfarers is about three times higher than the average unit cost in Dover.

The proposed alternative, Westbrook House, has a vacant wing.

Cllr Burden voiced his concerns against the proposal to close Wayfarers and was the only member of the committee to vote against it.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We need to maintain (care homes) in towns. They need to be provided by Kent County Council, not just the private sector.”

Wayfarers houses 14 residents
Wayfarers houses 14 residents

Cllr Chandler, who represents Sandwich, said she supported the decision.

She said: “Wayfarers, as a building, no longer conforms to the CQC requirements. It only has 33 rooms at the moment and shared bathroom accommodation.

“To reconfigure that would be very costly and quite impractical because you would finish up with very few rooms in the building.”

She added: “While I understand there will be concern in Sandwich, my determination is to make sure that people have the best choice of care as they get older.”

KCC will seek to find a buyer for the site.

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