Families have spoken of their relief after two council-run dementia care homes were saved from closure.
Kirklees Council had wanted to shut both Castle Grange at Newsome and Claremont House in Heckmondwike as it battled to slash £47 million off its budget.
For five months, the relatives of 42 loved ones at the two homes campaigned tirelessly, warning of the impact the closures would have on the lives of residents.
Relatives begged the council to “find another way” and yesterday (Thursday) the council backed down and announced the homes would remain open.
The campaign was one of the most powerful – and emotional – ever seen in Kirklees with families telling their heart-wrenching stories in council meetings.
Helen Plaskitt, who gave one of the most emotional speeches ever heard in the council chamber, spoke for all the relatives when she said: “The feeling is just an enormous sense of relief.
“We can now get on with our lives again and spend the time we should have been spending with our relatives.”
Helen, whose husband John lives at Claremont House, said the closure threat had caused months of “fear and dread” and the council U-turn was “fantastic news for us and for future residents too.”
She said it was also a huge relief for staff at the homes who faced losing their jobs.
Residents were called to an urgent meeting, held simultaneously at the two homes, at 3pm on Thursday. There were tears of relief as a council officer told them the homes were saved.
Campaigners, who were prepared to launch legal action and seek a judicial review, issued a statement saying the homes should be “celebrated and championed” not dismissed and sold off.
The statement added: “As families we can now use the precious time we have left with our loved ones as we should have been doing for the past five months.
“Many relatives have shared their initial horror and despair when the news about the proposed closures was first revealed, and this led to a coming together and substantial fight.
“The campaign has held rallies, participated in a march, held its own public meetings and put forward repeated deputations to council with an aim of holding them to account.”
Newsome councillor Andrew Cooper (Green), who campaigned with the residents, said: “I’m really pleased for the families of residents at Castle Grange and Claremont House who have campaigned so hard to save these dementia care homes from closure.
“It has been a really distressing time for them and they have campaigned hard to ensure the voices of their relatives have been heard.
“I would like to thank Kirklees Council for finding a way to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our community are able to stay in their home.”
The council says it will now “explore potential opportunities to transfer the homes into the independent sector” however the council will “continue to operate the homes during this time, and thereafter if it is not successful in transferring them.”
Helen said she believed any transfer would be at least three years away.
In a statement confirming the homes would remain open, council leader Clr Cathy Scott said: “I understand how unsettling the last few months have been for residents of both homes and their families. I hope this announcement gives them some peace of mind.
“Social care is in crisis across the country. Demand for services far outstrips resources and councils are facing increasingly painful decisions.
“We have always argued that social care needs a long-term solution rather than short-term, last minute, funding announcements that make planning very difficult.
“Despite this, we have always said that we would prioritise local people who need our help and support most within a very difficult financial position.
“By continuing to run the two care homes, whilst exploring alternatives to them being operated by the council, we believe we are staying true to that promise.”
Kirklees Council will publish its draft budget for 2024-25 on Monday February 5.