Northumberland RAF respite care facility at Rothbury House under threat, with 36 jobs at risk, as crisis hits finances

A Northumberland respite care facility is threatened with closure, putting 36 jobs at risk.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 10:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 10:59 am
Rothbury House. Picture c/o Google Streetview

The RAF Association (RAFA) has entered into a period of consultation regarding the closure of Rothbury House, as well as its other Wing Breaks hotel facility at Weston-Super-Mare, following a major financial hit to the charity from Covid-19.

But Northumberland County Council is to discuss the future of the facility with RAFA’s management and investigate if there are ways in which the local authority could be involved.

Rothbury House currently provides welfare breaks for the entire RAF family, with respite and convalescent care available when required.

There are also 10 sheltered-housing flats and it is understood that seven of these are occupied at present.

However, a letter to to the county council, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), states that the proposals ‘do not include our independent living facilities (sheltered and supported housing) next to Rothbury House (Lord Tedder and Malcolm Court apartments) and the tenancies of their residents would therefore be unaffected’.

This letter also notes that ‘no decision has yet been made about the future of either hotel’, with the charity’s trustees due to decide on July 22. A letter to staff, also seen by the LDRS, says that the proposed closure date is the end of July.

A total of 117 employees across the organisation, including 36 at Rothbury, are at risk of redundancy, but 38 new roles will be created. The redundancy consultation will end on July 17.

Explaining the reasons behind the proposal, the letter explains: ‘We estimate that our income will decrease by £7.3million this year and our investments have also reduced by some £2.5million – a total financial impact of £10million. We anticipate that similar negative impacts will continue into 2021 and beyond.

‘The Association must therefore face the reality that we have less money to spend on our charitable objects than we had anticipated prior to Covid-19. Against this background, our trustees are duty bound to review its welfare services and supporting activities.’

Coun Steven Bridgett, the ward member for Rothbury, said: “My priority is the 36 staff employed either full-time or on the bank and the permanent residents who live in the sheltered-housing flats.

“We have got to look at all the options with regards to the facilities and I’m pleased RAFA is now engaged in dialogue with the council.

“We have agreed to have another meeting next week once the council’s director of adult social care has had a chance to have a full and frank discussion with RAFA.”

Coun Bridgett, who described Rothbury House as an ‘excellent facility’, also said he was very impressed by the response from the council’s chief executive and senior management team in wanting to look at the options available.

In an open letter addressed to health bosses, Katie Scott, the coordinator of the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign, said that the potential loss of Rothbury House – on top of other services in recent years – ‘points conclusively to the requirement that Rothbury Community Hospital, when reopened, should be vibrant, flexible, and fully supportive and knowledgeable of the needs of the area in the care and service which it provides’.

Earlier in the letter, she claims that during the fight to have the inpatient ward reopened, NHS representatives said that RAFA would be able to provide appropriate care for some patients in its Rothbury premises.

She adds that the campaign team was ‘very sorry indeed’ to learn of the proposed closure, which would result in ‘the loss of so many jobs, and the loss of such a valued resource to many elderly and vulnerable people’.

RAFA was approached for comment.

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