Sadness as charity shuts Buckmaster House in Broadstairs despite local efforts to save it

Buckmaster House (image google maps)

The battle to keep Buckmaster House retirement home in Broadstairs open has been lost with the doors closing for the final time yesterday (April 29).

The Western Esplanade site was run the Abbeyfield charity following a merger agreement in 2018 with Buckmaster Trustees that included a financial deal.

Abbeyfield  is a charity for older people providing housing across the UK and internationally and owns over 400 houses in seven countries.

‘Challenges’

Residents were first informed of the plans to close the site in May last year with Abbeyfield claiming the charity  had to overcome “significant challenges” from living through an “unprecedented pandemic, the war in Ukraine causing a huge increase in energy costs, rising inflation and escalating operation costs” and “a nationwide workforce shortage.”

The charity said that following a review it had “identified some properties” that can no longer be “operated sustainably.”

At the time of the announcement one family member said: “Elderly vulnerable people who thought they were in a safe haven have been left to flounder.”

Buckmaster House had 21 en-suite rooms and around 14 of those were occupied when the closure announcement was made.

The residents that remained have had to find alternative accommodation and staff and the home manager are faced with finding new jobs.

Sadness

In a post to social media the former Buckmaster House manager Karen Hunt said it was “with great sadness” that she closed the door to the home for the last time.

She added: “I just wanted to take the opportunity to tell everyone that the decision by Abbeyfield to close us was not based on any failure of the Buckmaster home as a business.

“In fact we were still doing extremely well considering we had just come out of Lockdown without losing any of our wonderful residents due to the diligence of our loyal staff and the families who supported us.

“The Abbeyfield society has closed 42 of their homes in the last nine months, so we are trying hard not to take it personally. But it is an absolute tragedy that such a successful local retirement home has now closed.

“It had withstood the test of time, surviving through two world wars and managing to evolve over all that time to accommodate the aging population of its residents for the 130 years that we were an independent charity.

“Yet just five years after ‘acquiring’ us Abbeyfield have closed the home and are now selling the property for somewhere in the region of £4 million pounds.”

Attempts to save the home

In January this year a group of Broadstairs residents attempted to save the home by asking Abbeyfield to relinquish control by reinstating the Buckmaster Memorial Home Charity.

The Buckmaster Support Group  said they would have been willing to take over the Buckmaster charity but conversations with the site owner ground to a halt.

In the social media post Karen added: “I would like to thank all of those local people who tried to save us, the petitions that were signed, the local group who were prepared to take us on and form a new charity but were rejected, the staff, our residents and their supportive families .

“It has been a very sad and stressful time for all those involved in the home especially for our residents who have all had to find new homes, but also for the staff finding new jobs and for me as the manager.

“I felt helpless to stop what was happening, it was clearly a ‘fait accompli’ and no matter what we tried to do to stop it happening it was going to go ahead and we have closed anyway.”

‘Difficult decisions’

Abbeyfield Living Society (ALS) said: “Consultation into the long-term future of Buckmaster House started following an extensive independent review of all the ALS stock portfolio, which concluded the home was no longer financially sustainable over the coming five years.

“Significant investment is required to meet the standards expected by prospective residents and regulators, now and in the future and the costs to carry out this work, even if spread over an extended period, are too great for us to meet.

“In addition, Buckmaster House has faced significant occupancy challenges over the last few years; in 2022 the house had an average occupancy of only 79%, with three consecutive months at only 67%, which equates to seven empty rooms. This trend continued in 2023, with average occupancy remaining at around 80%.

“The past few difficult years dealing with the impact of the Covid pandemic, sector-wide staffing shortages, the huge increase in energy prices, rising inflation and rapidly increasing operating costs has impacted ALS’s ability to control costs and keep the accommodation affordable.

“The reality is that we are operating in a very different environment now to when we took over the property in 2017; regulatory requirements have changed; the operational landscape has changed and we, along with our peers, are having to navigate in increasingly difficult operating conditions in an unstable climate.

“ALS consulted at length with residents, families, staff, local stakeholders and other organisations about the different options available to try and keep the home open and serving the community. As part of the consultation, we approached local, national, general and specialist housing providers to see if they were interested in taking the property. We also wrote to local commissioning teams and membership societies and held discussions with the Local Authority and the local MP.

“Having explored all avenues we cannot see a way of maintaining Buckmaster House as a financially sustainable service that is fit for purpose in the future. This led us to make the difficult decision to close Buckmaster House. As a charity, we never want to close a home, however, part of being a responsible organisation is recognising when you need to make a difficult decision, and this was one of those occasions.

“Our priority once we announced closure was to provide residents with the support they needed to find alternative accommodation where they would be happy, as well as support the staff.

“These decisions are not taken lightly and follow a great deal of work to find an alternative solution.”

Buckmaster House

Buckmaster House was built in 1895, commissioned by Jane Buckmaster in memory of her husband Thomas Buckmaster, a Savile Row tailor in London.

The house was originally set up as a place for women in the Brixton area to stay for convalescence or come for a holiday. Over the years, the house had been restored and modernised to provide accommodation for people of retirement age.

Buckmaster House retirement home residents informed of consultation over proposed closure

Plea to avert proposed Buckmaster House retirement home closure by reinstating independent management

9 Comments

  1. So very sad. Another appalling example of a larger organisation asset stripping and purely looking at a large profit.

    No doubt we will soon see a planning application for a housing estate.

  2. Jane – Really. You obviously have no idea regarding running a business. I have carefully read the article and basically economics have closed it, not asset stripping.

    • I have been a very successful business person, (not just in this country but also opening and running offices overseas), and it is because of that and what I have read, other than this article, that I made my comment.

  3. A huge site, big old building , but only 21 rooms to provide income to support it all. If you’re looking to slim down and make your business more efficient it was always going to the one of the places to ne closed, that it occupies a large lump of land in a prime location just adds to the pressures to offload it.

  4. I have visited Buckmaster through my work and what a lovely traditional home. Sadly part of the closure I strongly believe would be due to lack of Government Funding to support our people who are older, frail and with disabilities both physically and cognitively.

  5. Abbey Field charity for the elderly,??? Don’t make no me laugh they like to call themselves a “charity” but there is nothing charitable about that mob they are a multi million pound business they should have their chargeable status taken often it’s just a tax fiddle. There are far too many so called “ Charities” trading under false pretences.

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