AS the son of two former trustees of the original Henry Lonsdale Charitable Trust, I have read with sadness the recent reports and comments regarding the closure of Barn Close care home in Stanwix due to the difficulties in employing care staff.

The Charity Commission information for The Henry Lonsdale Trust, which runs the home, makes interesting reading:

1. According to the most recent trustees’ report available on the Charity Commission website (for the year to March 31 2021): “Despite the good record of both homes on the Covid-19 front, the general public loss of confidence led to some decrease in enquiries and applications for physically frail places at the Barn Close home. This led to the need to make some redundancies at that Home.”

The trust could have made more use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough the 'surplus' Barn Close staff at that time.

These staff would then have been able to continue their employment subsequently and ease the current staffing crisis.

It only received £14,747 from CJRS in the year ended March 31 2021, which is less than one person for one year at the national minimum wage.

2. The trustees’ report (dated as approved on November 2 2021) concludes: “In 2020/2021, and despite the extremely trying situation created by the pandemic, the CIO continued to achieve what the Trustees regard as its principal object i.e. the provision of homes for elderly people, the quality of which and, most importantly, the quality of care within which, are both considered to be second to none. That remains the standard and goal of the CIO going forward.” 

Sadly, it appears to have taken very little time for the goal of running both care homes to have been changed.

A cynic might conclude that Barn Close has been deliberately run down. I do not actually believe this. I just think that the trustees have been guilty of some very poor short-term planning.

3. According to the most recent accounts available on the Charity Commission website (for the year to March 31 2021) the trust made a modest profit (compared to a loss in the previous year) and had in excess of half a million pounds in the bank.

According to the trustees’ report it is also in discussion to sell “investment land” to a developer to raise more funds. It does not appear to be an organisation in financial difficulties that urgently needs to cease to operate one of its two care homes.

4. At least six of the seven trustees are either current or former Carlisle City Council and/or Cumbria County Council councillors.

As recent reports indicate that the trust has a lease on Barn Close from the property’s owners (Cumbria County Council), it raises the potential of a conflict of interest. What is the plan for Barn Close if/once the care home closes?

5. Cumbria County Council operates a number of residential care homes as “Cumbria Care” of which Burnrigg Court in Morton is one. It would be interesting to know if discussions have taken place with Cumbria Care to take over the running of Barn Close if the trust no longer wishes to run the home.

All of the above raises questions as to why Barn Close is closing. I would urge that every effort is made for The Henry Lonsdale Trust to continue to run the home or for an alternative operator to be found.

David Robinson
Stanwix, Carlisle