Vicar leads peaceful protest in over potential care home closure

The Northern Echo: Deacon Sue Peat chained to the gates of Newton Lodge in Stanhope, while campaigners form a circle of love and protection around the threatened care home Deacon Sue Peat chained to the gates of Newton Lodge in Stanhope, while campaigners form a circle of love and protection around the threatened care home

A VICAR chained herself to the gates of a North-East care home today (Sunday, December 8) as protests against its possible closure intensify.

Almost 100 people joined hands to form a circle of love and protection around Newtown House, in Stanhope, County Durham, while Deacon Sue Peat chained herself to the gates.

The campaigners waved banners, chanted “save our home” and sang Christmas carols, altering the lyrics to express how much the care home means to communities in Weardale.

And while the protest was very much a peaceful affair, the campaigners actions sent out a powerful message, with residents, relatives and concerned dales folk standing side-by-side.

Newton House, which caters for 25 residents, is one of five Durham County Council care homes under threat of closure, as the authority is forced to cut its spending by a further £100m.

Deacon Peat, a Methodist minister in Stanhope, said it was vital for the community to take a stand.

“I feel it is important for me as a Stanhope resident and as a minister to support social justice issues and this is a huge issue in Weardale,” she said. “This home is a lifeline to so many people and we are urging the council to keep it open.”

Michelle Robson, whose father-in-law, Donald Robson, 83, is a resident at Newtown House, said she was delighted but not surprised at the turnout.

“It is a visual demonstration of our emotions and how we feel about Newton House,” she said.

“It is a fantastic place and I cannot praise the staff enough. Most of them are local and everyone knows each other.

“Durham County Council may be able to provide beds and food elsewhere but what about quality of life.

“It is about more than just beds, it is about peoples’ homes. If Newton Houses closes and my father-in-law is moved out of the dale we won’t be able to visit him every day. This would have a massive impact on him and the whole family.”

Durham County Council is consulting over three proposals for the care homes – closure, handing over management to private firms or retaining them as they are.

The campaigners, including Weardale county councillors John Shuttleworth and Anita Savoury, are urging residents to respond to the consultation, which runs until January 19.

The other homes affected are Cheveley House, in Belmont, near Durham City, Feryemount, in Ferryhill, Grampian House, in Peterlee, and Mendip House, in Chester-le-Street.

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