Notice when closing a care home

Suddenly deciding to close a supported living scheme without consulting residents could amount to a breach of their human rights and of other legal duties. Kathryn Gooding reports

Ashley Smith with his mother Nadia Smith de Nekludoff

Families fighting the closure of a Cheltenham supported living scheme without warning have welcomed a decision to keep it open for now following a legal challenge that referred to Human Rights Act duties.

Sanctuary Group, which operates Shaftesbury Place in Gloucestershire, had told residents, tenants and their loved ones during a meeting in January that it had decided to close the home at the end of April.

After the legal threat, the housing association agreed on 26 March that the home would remain open, pending a formal consultation being conducted and considering the impact of any proposed closure on residents and tenants before taking a fresh decision.

The home offers residential care and supported housing flats with care for 23 adults aged 18–65 years. Residents, some of whom have been living at the home for almost 10 years, have severe disabilities and complex needs.

No warning was given and no consultation or impact assessments with residents or family members took place.

Sanctuary claimed the decision to close was made as the home no longer met modern standards, even though the Care Quality Commission has consistently rated it as good, including at its last review in 2023.

We hope now there’s a chance to save the home for all the wonderful residents and staff who’ve made this a real home from home for so many

Four families and representatives of residents of Shaftesbury Place instructed specialist public law and human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to challenge the decision.

Relatives and loved ones of Ashley Smith, 44, Robert Morgan, 40, Adrian Crossland, 49, and Clare Poulton, 49, said the closure would prove devastating for their families, who believed this was their home for life.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell wrote to Sanctuary in March, urging the housing association to reverse the decision to close or potentially face a judicial review in the high court.

Irwin Mitchell argued that the decision to close and lack of consultation were unlawful.

Its lawyers argued this was a breach of residents’ rights under article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (this concerns rights to respect for private life, family life, home and correspondence) as well as of the Equality Act 2010, specifically a breach of the public sector equality duty.

They also said Sanctuary had failed to conduct a lawful consultation and to comply with the Tameside duty of inquiry (that a public body has a duty to carry out a sufficient inquiry before making a decision).

The Human Rights Act sets out fundamental rights and freedoms to which everyone in the UK is entitled. Public bodies such as the police, local authorities and schools all have a duty to make sure these rights are protected.

Ashley Smith has lived at Shaftesbury Place for 18 years. His mother, Nadia Smith de Nekludoff, said they were blindsided by the news of the closure.

She said: “Ashley has lived at Shaftesbury Place for nearly two decades now and he’s very happy there. It’s Ashley’s home for life and, while we welcome the change of heart by Sanctuary and news of a consultation, we remain very concerned at what will come of this and what closure would mean for Ashley and all the other residents.

“The initial news was sprung on us with no warning and it seems that the wonderful staff were as shocked as the rest of us. Some people have been there for 30 years and to be suddenly told you’ll have to find a new home out of the blue is just devastating.

“Ashley called us several times, angry and in tears at the news and while we’re all pleased at the outcome of the legal challenge, it feels like a stay of execution. We don’t know what will happen in the consultation but we’ll be doing all we can to make sure residents’ voices are heard.”

Catherine Morgan, mum of Robert Morgan, 40, who has been a tenant for 10 years, said: “For Robert to be forced to move would be a traumatic experience. It would take him not just from a much-loved home, but a place where he has been able to make friends and live a full and settled life.

“We hope now there’s a chance to save the home for all the wonderful residents and staff who’ve made this a real home from home for so many people. Residents feel loved, safe and valued and no one is under any illusion about how hard this would be to replicate somewhere else.”

This is yet another case showing how important it is for care home owners to take residents’ views and needs into account when making major decisions

Special place

Andrew Barrell, a close friend of Adrian Crossland, 49, who has lived at Shaftesbury Place for 29 years, said: “Adrian was devastated when he was told the home would be closing and he might have to leave. This is his home for life and has been his world for nearly 30 years now.

“It’s far more than bricks and mortar but a part of his life and it’s hard to see where he and other residents could go if it were to close. We’re now going to do everything we can to save this special place.”

Louise Bragg, the carer of Clare Poulton, 50, who has lived at Shaftesbury Place for 14 years, said: “Like so many other residents, Clare has made this place her home. The other residents are like family and to think of them being forced to move and be separated from their friends is heartbreaking. Their friendship groups must stay together.

“Everyone welcomes the change of heart on the decision to close. We owe it to the residents to speak for them and fight to ensure this home remains open, continues to serve its people and continues being such a valued place in the local community.”

The news that Sanctuary agreed to reverse its decision to close Shaftesbury Place for the time being is a victory for the residents and tenants who see this as their home, and also their loved ones.

This is yet another case where we can see how important it is for care home owners and operators to take the views and needs of their residents into account when making major decisions that will have such a profound impact on the lives of those in their care.

It is right that a full and proper consultation should always take place in these cases and our clients feel vindicated that the home will now remain open while this is undertaken.

We are pleased to have assisted the families in the fight to save what is their home, and will continue to support them throughout the forthcoming consultation process.

Kathryn Gooding is a solicitor in the public law and human rights department of Irwin Mitchell


Secretary of State for Education and Science v Metropolitan Borough of Tameside [1976] 3 All ER 665

Why care homes close

Shaftesbury Place
Shaftesbury Place. Photo: Google Images

Closing a care home at short notice is rare. Reasons for closing vary, including because facilities are outdated or for financial reasons. Most care home closures are planned and residents are consulted and informed in advance.

If a major provider goes out of business, this does not mean all its care homes will close. Sometimes its services will be taken over by another provider and there is little impact on the day-to-day care of the residents.

If a provider suddenly goes out of business, councils have a temporary duty to meet the needs of all residents, regardless of whether the individual or the council paying the fees.

Based on information from charity Independent Age