Sometimes, as we all know, the road to hell can be paved with the best of intentions. Recent events at the Morris Feinmann Home in Didsbury provide a perfect illustration of this dictum. Everyone appears to be acting through the noblest of motives. But not everyone is pleased at the way things are turning out.
The Morris Feinmann Home originated as a care-facility for Jewish refugees from Nazism. It now provides residential, nursing, dementia and respite care services for the Jewish communities of north-west England. It was established over a half-century ago in a converted Victorian house that has been enlarged and modified over time. Now it is said to be “increasingly… not fit for purpose.” The trustees have therefore decided it must be rebuilt. And while this happens, residents are to be moved into the Allingham House care home in Altrincham, a few miles away, where Jewish residents will occupy “specifically designated floors” and will continue to enjoy “the full “Jewish” experience” (including a kosher kitchen) currently provided at Morris Feinmann. At the same time, the hard-working staff of the Home will (or such is the intention) transfer en bloc to Allingham House, and become employees of its owners, New Care Projects. In 2015, when the rebuilding has been completed, those residents that are still alive will be moved back — presumably with the staff who have cared for them.
Well, you may say, nothing could be simpler — or more desirable. An old Victorian structure has outlived its usefulness. It is going to be replaced with state-of-the-art facilities. A certain amount of disruption is inevitable. But, surely, all will be well that ends well. Yet in the Anglo-Jewish world nothing — alas — is ever that simple.
There was no consultation whatsoever with residents or their families — or, apparently, the care staff or administrative officers — prior to a public announcement in early December. This statement was annexed to a letter sent to next-of-kin, inviting them to meet with the trustees five days later. It was in this manner that an acquaintance of mine first heard about the planned temporary relocation of a resident, and that this temporary relocation was to take place early in the new year (this month, in fact).
We might or might not conclude that his description (“cruel”) of the proposal to move a group of extremely elderly and vulnerable people at such short notice was a tad excessive. But, totally supportive as I am of the need to upgrade substandard facilities, the lack of prior consultation and the unseemly haste to transfer the residents, do strike me as — at best — clumsy and insensitive.
I’m also bound to ask whether the upgrade is all that it seems. A careful reading of the press statement reveals that the Home is not actually being rebuilt, but that what’s really intended is that the site should be redeveloped by “Belong Villages,” which is part of the CLS Care Services Group, a non-Jewish provider that runs (no doubt very well) more than 30 care homes in the north-west. Morris Feinmann Home will be replaced by something called “Morris Feinmann Belong Village”. There are vague promises that the Trust that currently runs Morris Feinmann will continue to raise funds to support residents who cannot afford fees, and will “work to maintain the Jewish ethos” at the new privately-owned facility. “Jews in necessitous circumstances” will be given priority in the allocation of residential units. But make no mistake. This facility will not actually be “Jewish.”
I have not myself visited the current Home. Those that have insist that it is by no means in a state of irredeemable disrepair. A lift (they report) needs servicing and there are, as one might expect, a limited number of non-critical structural issues that need attention. If new requirements relating to the care of dementia patients are likely to cause problems, then by all means put a modernisation plan into effect.
But the most recent inspection (in October) by the Care Quality Commission painted a very positive picture of the home and of the services it provides. And a spokesperson for CLS has confirmed that a contract with the Morris Feinmann Home trustees has yet to be finalised. If that’s the case, why the hurry to move the residents out to Altrincham?