Division over £14m dementia village planned for Tweedbank

Caution has been urged over pushing ahead with a £14m ‘pretend’ village for older people with dementia at Tweedbank.

By Paul Kelly
Monday, 29th November 2021, 11:19 am
Theatre Square at Hogeweyk dementia village in The Netherlands. (Photo: PAUL TOLENAAR)
Theatre Square at Hogeweyk dementia village in The Netherlands. (Photo: PAUL TOLENAAR)

At a meeting of the full council last week members gave support to progress plans for the development on the Lowood Estate, with a capacity for 60 residents.

Last year a delegation from the authority visited Hogeweyk ‘dementia village’ at Weesp in Holland.

And the proposed Borders development would represent a similar move away from traditional institutionalised residential care to create a ‘neighbourhood that is part of a broader society’.

Sign up to our daily The Southern Reporter Today newsletter

Hogeweyk care village shopping mall. (Photo: Ilvy Njioktjien)

A separate plan is also being drawn up for another care village in Hawick.

The plans will require the closure of Waverley Care and Garden View Intermediate care homes in Galashiels.

But Tweeddale West ward councillor Heather Anderson feels the plans have concerning echoes of the past, specifically of the former Lennox Castle hospital outside of Glasgow.

She explained: "My concern here is to be very conscious of the history. Lennox Castle accommodated six thousand people in the 1990s and we are talking in this report about congregating other types of residential units in this site. That’s how it happens and that’s how it grows.

"Putting people in rural settings behind closed doors puts them at risk and we are still dealing with the impact of institutionalised abuse in Scotland.

"At Lennox Castle there were many facilities. There was a cinema, a ballroom, a shop, a chemist and there was a park but none of those external facilities kept people safe. They all lived in ten to 12 patient units. I think we have to think harder here. Instead of a pretend village where we care for people in residential settings we should perhaps be caring for people in their own village. Vulnerable adults need to be as close as possible to the people who love and care for them.”

In response, council chief executive Netta Meadows said: “The ambition of this council is to keep people in their own homes, cared for as much as possible in their own homes. The reality is different in that people will develop care needs that require them to go into a care setting that is very different from their own home.

"What we are trying to do with this care village is make it as familiar and similar to that home setting.”

Selkirkshire ward councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol is an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed care village.

She said: “We need it. We should be doing it and it is 100 per cent the right thing to do for our older people and I look forward to the full business case coming as soon as it is practicable.

"I do have some concerns though. This plan originally came as a dementia care village, based very much on the Dutch concept I had the privilege of visiting.

"Effectively we will have an increase of only 11 beds but the other 49 beds are going to come from the closure of Garden View and Waverley. We know the rate of people living with dementia is on the up so we need to make sure this is fit for purpose.

"Can I be assured that this care village will have the capacity and the ability to ensure we can look after all our old people but in particular those that are living with advanced dementia.

"I would also like to make a plea for ten six-bedded units not six ten-bedded units because six people living in a house, which is effectively what we are creating, makes it more like home and less like an institution.”

Kelso and District Councillor Euan Robson expressed concern as the cost of the plan.

He said: “In the document it says the current estimate for the facility of £14.3m, including an allowance for road access, is significantly above capital plan estimates. We have to be careful we don’t exceed the figures that are in an already tight capital plan.”

Hawick councillors Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer sought confirmation of the location of the proposed site in the town, which was originally to be in the Guthrie Drive/Stirches area.

They were informed that four sites in Hawick have been identified with the preferred location yet to be decided.