A trade union has slammed Barnet Council over a care home closure that will put 93 “Covid heroes” at risk of redundancy.

Staff working at Apthorp Care Centre in Nurserymans Road, Brunswick Park, were told of the council’s plan to move residents out of the 82-bed facility, which cares for vulnerable older people, on August 20.

The council says the care home requires “significant works” that would cause “major disruption” to residents.

But the Barnet branch of trade union Unison raised concerns over the impact on staff – who had only recently been hailed as Covid heroes for working through the pandemic – and the safety of vulnerable and elderly residents facing moves to new homes.

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Helen Davies, branch chair of Barnet Unison, said: “The workers at the care home and day centre will have their lives thrown up in the air some few months after banners at the care home proclaimed them heroes for how they dealt with the pandemic. 

“There has been absolutely no engagement with staff, residents, their families or the trade unions at any point to consider how Apthorp could be made viable. The cornerstone of activism for people with disabilities – nothing about us without us – has been utterly and completely ignored.”

Barnet Council outsourced its care homes in 2001. Apthorp – designed to care for people with dementia, mental health conditions and physical disabilities – was one of 11 homes sold to Catalyst Housing (then Ealing Family Housing Association) and run by a charity, The Fremantle Trust. 

The facility was demolished and rebuilt in around 2004. But in 2019 it was brought back under the council’s control shortly after an inspection by care watchdog the Care Quality Commission rated the home ‘inadequate’.

In August, staff were told the council and Your Choice Barnet had decided to vacate the home by October 31 after surveys carried out following recent emergency work revealed “significant levels of repairs” were needed.

The decision puts the jobs of 84 staff members working at the residential care home and nine at a day care centre at risk.

Barnet Unison accused the council of trying to “fast track” the move of residents in less than two months, which it claimed “does not provide ample time to prepare and support vulnerable residents”.

Barnet Council said in a statement: “Your Choice Barnet and Barnet Council are working with residents of Apthorp Care Centre in Brunswick Park to support them to move to alternative care homes.

“The decision to vacate Apthorp Care Centre has been made on the basis of the wellbeing of residents. Recent inspections of the building identified the need for significant works to upgrade fire safety systems and meet contemporary standards. The extent of work required would cause major disruption to the residents over a lengthy period of time.”

Dawn Wakeling, the council’s executive director of adults and health, said the authority would “work closely with residents and their families to ensure they have the best network of care available to them”.

She added: “Your Choice Barnet will support each member of staff to find alternative employment through redeployment and assistance with job finding. Work is also underway to secure an alternative location for the day centre provided from the same site, where a further nine staff are employed.”

Julie Riley, group director of care and support for The Barnet Group, thanked Apthorp staff “for their dedicated service, especially during the Covid-19 crisis”. 

She added: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we appreciate the impact it will have on residents as well as staff. We will consult one-to-one with employees and their representatives in trade unions and support them through the next stages. We are a large employer, and there are many options across the organisation for redeployment into other roles.”