ADULTS with special needs were left upset and shocked when they were told by a charity that their home in Rowde near Devizes is to close.

Many of the residents of the HFT complex have lived there for 20 years or more and have made close friends.

In addition to the 33 residents a number of people use HFT for day care. These include Alan Minter, 40, from Devizes who has Downs Syndrome. His father Brian said: “It’s a tragedy.”

Emma Bagley HFT’s divisional director admitted news of the closures had caused deep upset to some residents and families. She said the large site would eventually be sold by the charity.

Mr Minter and his wife Sylvia said their son has been depressed since day care at the centre stopped in March because of coronavirus restrictions and have now been told it will never re-open.

As yet they have no idea if an alternative day place will be provided. Mr Minter said: “My son is recovering from surgery and has become very depressed and developed an eating disorder where he’s lost a huge amount of weight.

“He needed to get back and meet friends and staff, some of which he has known over 20 years.” I challenged HFT to open day services at the start of last week and operate safe distancing policies which are now standard in schools including Rowdeford School nearby which has younger people attending with the same challenging conditions most have at HFT. Now we know why.”

Mr Minter said he was highlighting the issues not just for the sake of his own son but all those affected.

He said: “This isn’t about us. This is about the closure of a wonderful community. Wonderful staff have left who organised a float to travel for the Devizes Carnival, the Christmas lantern parade. All sadly gone and before COVID 19.”

In 2018 the complex of bungalows for people with learning disabilities was put in special measures by the Care Quality Commission after it highlighted an incident of abuse which was not handled correctly, staff shortages and other failings.

A follow up inspection in March, 2020, found residents were happy and improvements made but still gave it an overall rating of requires improvement.

Ms Bagley this week confirmed the complex would close in June next year and the day care would not re-open during that period regardless of whether or not the Covid-19 crisis eases.

She said: “For some time now it has been widely recognised, including by our regulator, the Care Quality Commission, that campus sites are not a best practice model of support for people with learning disabilities.

“The Rowde site is also in a remote location, which presents issues both in terms of links to the community and staff recruitment.

“In agreement with Wiltshire Council, we have jointly made the decision to close the site in June 2021. We know from best practice guidance and experience that people thrive in less isolated settings, so working in partnership with the local authorities involved. We will be supporting people in smaller, community-based settings to enjoy a greater level of independence.”

“We appreciate it may be unsettling for the people we support, families, and our staff.” “Moving forward we will be working closely with everyone involved. During what we understand will be a sensitive time our top priority remains the health, happiness and safety of the people we support at Rowde.”

But Mr Minter pointed out that HFT ran other campus-style communities were not being closed.

He said: “The fact the site is a goldmine for development has crossed my mind. What is being overlooked is the amazing facility and community that always existed.”

Ms Bagley confirmed that HFT would sell the large site which is made up of a number of bungalows and other communal buildings.

She said the money would by used by the charity to fund other projects.

Cllr Simon Jacobs, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Public Protection said: The decision to close was made reluctantly by the provider and not the council. The council is working closely with HFT Rowde to ensure the smooth transition of all the people who access their services. We are consulting with customers, their families and carers about any changes to their provision including day services. We do appreciate that this is an uncertain time, especially with the temporary loss of some services due to COVID.

“If anyone is worried about a family member who is finding it difficult because they cannot access day services, they should contact the council so we can assist with individual cases. We understand and are in agreement with the HFT decision which will seek to move residents to community-based settings. We will be working in close partnership with HFT to ensure the transition is smooth and puts the residents at the heart of future plans.”