Shock and anger as Jewish Care announces closure of its Brighton residential home

The charity says Hyman Fine House is not financially sustainable, given limited occupancy


Brighton Jewish leaders have expressed shock and outrage over Jewish Care’s decision to close its local residential home, Hyman Fine House.

Residents, families and staff were told last week that the home would close in September, subject to alternative accommodation being found for the 20 residents in the 45-capacity facility.

Jewish Care said the home had come under “enormous financial pressure” because of declining occupancy, “compounded by us sadly losing seven residents during the pandemic”. Some bedrooms were no longer fit for purpose and had been withdrawn from use.

Although options had been explored for an extensive refurbishment, “there is simply not sufficient demand for places at Hyman Fine House to bring capacity levels up to an acceptable level for the home to be sustainable”. It said it cost £1.8 million annually to keep the home operational.

Its immediate priority would be supporting residents to find alternative accommodation and helping the 43 staff into new employment.

A statement on behalf of Brighton Jewish organisations expressed “shock” at the news, “delivered to elderly, vulnerable residents and their families with no warning.  It has had a devastating impact.”

They accused Jewish Care of disrespect, alleging: “They did not have the common courtesy or sense to discuss this huge decision with any of the welfare bodies in the community to seek our input or to discuss options with us. To rip this vital service from our community without even talking to us displays a shocking lack of care and consideration.”

In his Shabbat sermon, Brighton and Hove Reform’s Rabbi Andrea Zanardo said he was, like many, “shocked and saddened” by the news.

“As part of my rabbinical duties, I visit Hyman Fine for the major holidays and sometimes during the week. Every time I enter that place, I feel the embrace of the wisdom of the previous Jewish generations.

“The staff at Hyman Fine are simply superb,” he added. “During the pandemic, they have given the best of themselves. They have been heroes... Is this the Jewish way to treat the workers and carers?”

Families had been given limited time to decide whether to relocate their loved ones to Jewish Care homes in London or to a home nearer Brighton without Jewish amenities.

“The community must find strength and unity to keep Hyman Fine open,” he declared.

“They [Jewish Care] say there are not enough guests and it is not sustainable. Guess what? I know at least five families are looking for a Jewish nursing home for their relatives.

“If there are no elderly people to honour, how can we call ourselves a Jewish community?”

Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Hershel Rader said it was “very sad to lose our wonderful residential home which has provided incredible care together with a Jewish environment. This facility will be sorely missed.”

A couple with a loved one who has been at Hyman Fine for four years were “really upset”, saying: “She has had excellent care. All the staff know her and talk to her about all her stories. Moving her at this stage means a new home will just know her as someone with severe dementia rather than as a person. I think it is appalling that a Jewish charity can treat the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community like this.”

The children of a woman with vascular dementia claimed to have been “strung along” by Jewish Care after she was assessed for a place at Hyman Fine three months ago. Initially told that her admission was being delayed by “staffing issues”, they were then asked to view homes on Jewish Care’s Friern Barnet campus.

On Tuesday, Jewish Care reported that seven residents with family in London had expressed interest in moving to one of its North London homes.

Another three were interested in moving to Nightingale House in Clapham, administered by the Nightingale Hammerson charity. Nightingale is the nearest Jewish home to Hyman Fine, albeit over 50 miles away.

Of the other ten, seven were considering care homes in Sussex and three had yet to express a favoured option.

Jewish Care says it is committed to maintaining a presence in the Brighton area through drop-in community centre-type activities and a monthly Memory Way Café to support carers of those with dementia. It intends to create a community services co-ordinator role to support this work and will consult the community on the activities it would like to see.

Chief executive Daniel Carmel-Brown believed closing Hyman Fine was “ultimately the right decision to ensure Jewish Care is offering services that meet the expectations of residents whilst ensuring that the organisation can sustain itself financially.

“Understandably, our residents and their families have expressed their deep sadness and anxiety with some also feeling angry. Nothing I can say can take away these feelings.

“However, Jewish Care is fully committed to working with all residents and their families to find suitable alternative homes and we will support them every step of the way.”

Mr Carmel-Brown and other Jewish Care leaders were due to meet Brighton representatives on Wednesday night.

Hyman Fine was the charity’s last remaining home outside the London area, Raymond House in Southend having closed in 2012.

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