Residents' parents fearful over Ravenswood future

Families say they are 'totally distraught' about what Norwood's consultation over its Berkshire care village could mean for their loved ones


Families of residents at the Ravenswood Village in Berkshire have spoken emotionally about their fears for their loved ones in the wake of Norwood’s launch of a three-month consultation on its future.

Ravenswood currently cares for 96 adults with learning disabilities and/or autism and is rated as good by the Care Quality Commission, the last CQC report noting that residents “were valued and treated with kindness, dignity and respect”.

But announcing the consultation last week, Norwood said the village represented a “dated model of care” and was incurring “significant and increasing operating losses”. It said all options were on the table, including closure.

Western Marble Arch Synagogue member Maurice Collins said the situation was causing him sleepless nights.

His daughter Kim is severely learning disabled and bipolar and has been a resident for more than 30 years. Now 58, she requires constant support and her behaviour can be “unpredictable”, he said.

At Ravenswood, she could walk around the grounds, enjoy the site’s hydrotherapy pool and visit the nearby village of Crowthorne. Were it to close, he feared his daughter would be moved to a “four-wall flat somewhere”, which would “be absolutely disastrous” for her.

He criticised the consultation’s timing, pointing out it followed a lengthy separation period because of pandemic restrictions.

At a time of Covid, it left elderly parents facing a hugely stressful situation.

Another parent, Bette Rabie, 83, said her son Max, who is autistic, regularly expressed his wish to stay at Ravenswood forever.

“It’s got space and the residents are safe. Everybody knows them so they can wander around. They go from place to place. Max goes to the stables and helps. He doesn’t have to be escorted or watched.”

Mrs Rabie, a New North London Synagogue member, added that being immersed in Jewish culture meant “quite a lot to Max” and he would miss that if moved to a non-Jewish facility. “It is something which contributes to the quality of his life.”

Indeed, any changes could be traumatic for her son, who is 52 and was admitted to Ravenswood in his late teens.

“When he lived at home, if the spaghetti was cooked in a slightly different way; if my husband came home a half an hour later than usual; anything that was a slight change, he just couldn’t cope with it,” she recalled.

Tracy Murrell, 63, from Dorset, described Ravenswood as a “community within a community” and that families were “totally distraught” over the current uncertainty.

Her son Harry, 29, was brain damaged at birth resulting in a number of conditions. He is visually impaired and non-verbal.

She had shed “lots of tears” since learning of the consultation. “I’ve fought to get the best for my son all his life. I’m a single mum and it was a constant challenge until he moved to Ravenswood.”

Ms Murrell, who chairs the families’ association, said members wanted to be given more time to find potential solutions.

“There’s a lot of expertise among the families. If a small group of us were allowed to get around the table with Norwood, maybe we might get somewhere.”

Although not Jewish, her son had “embraced” the Jewish culture at the village, where he had “everything he needs”.

Another non-Jewish parent, Allison Thomas, said the placement of her daughter Deborah at Ravenswood had given her “peace of mind for a future I never had before”.

Deborah, 33, has cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, a severe learning disability and is visually impaired.

She had “flourished” during her eight years at Ravenswood, which was “reflected in her positive outlook on life. The care that staff have provided residents during Covid has been a testament to their determination to ensure our children are kept safe and well.”

Ms Thomas felt “a sense of deep gratitude to the founders of Ravenswood, the patrons and to the Jewish community as a whole. The heritage of Ravenswood is deeply significant. It is something to be proud of and sustained for future generations.”

A Norwood spokesperson told the JC on Wednesday that the “consultation process has been planned in great depth to ensure that it can be extensive, inclusive and meaningful. It involves over 150 workshops and meetings designed to capture the voices, views, interests, concerns and wishes of over 700 people.

“We understand how difficult it has been for many families as they have not been able to spend time with their loved one over a prolonged period of time. However, since it became clear in May 2020 that the planned redevelopment could not proceed, the question of Ravenswood’s future needed to be addressed.”

Were a decision made to close Ravenswood, “we would put a carefully planned and detailed process in place to endeavour, as far as possible, to match the needs, wishes and interests of every resident with appropriate and available care, support and accommodation”.

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