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Statement from the Families and Friends of Furlong Close

July 8, 2021 8:19 AM

A significant victory in the campaign to Save Furlong Close has been won, thanks to a major concession by the charity Hft in judicial review proceedings in the High Court.

Hft (which owns and runs the residential community at Furlong Close, which is home to 34 vulnerable, learning disabled people) has agreed to Consent Orders in the High Court, confirming that it has withdrawn its previous decision to close down the residents' long-term home. In the same Orders, Wiltshire Council has confirmed that it has taken no decision to stop commissioning care at Furlong Close.

The legal action has forced Hft to put the human rights of the vulnerable residents at the centre of its decision making. Never again should a charity or local authority be able to take a decision which fundamentally affects an individual's rights to their home without full consultation and proper respect for their needs and wishes.

Under the terms of the Order, which was made by the Court on 7 July, Hft confirms it has withdrawn its closure decision and it will continue to provide care to the residents at Furlong Close for as long as Wiltshire Council continues to commission that care.

This concession by Hft is an important step along the path to save Furlong Close, but that journey is not over. The future of Furlong Close now depends on Wiltshire Council reaching an agreement on the terms for it to continue to commission long-term care and support for the residents at Furlong Close, either with Hft or with another provider.

The Families and Friends of Furlong Close call on Wiltshire Council and Hft to work together in good faith to secure the homes of the residents, not just for a year or two longer, but for the long-term future.

Polly Sweeney, the solicitor acting for the Furlong Close resident on whose behalf the proceedings were brought (by her mother acting as her "litigation friend"), said:

"Whilst the claimant's litigation friend is of course delighted that Hft has now provided the assurances required to bring these proceedings to a conclusion, she is disappointed that legal proceedings were needed and hopes that when any future decisions are made, either by Hft or Wiltshire Council, that they will be made in a way that is consistent with the ECHR Article 8 rights of the claimant and the other residents."

"The claim for Judicial Review was brought by the claimant in order to challenge Hft's decision to close/cease to provide care and support at Furlong Close. Hft has now confirmed that it has withdrawn its closure decision of October last year and has made it clear that it has made no other decisions to close/cease to provide care and support at Furlong Close either now or in the future."

"Hft has also confirmed that it will continue to negotiate with Wiltshire Council regarding the current contractual arrangements in good faith. As a result of these assurances the claimant has been able to withdraw the Judicial Review by consent."

Trish, who brought the proceedings on behalf of her daughter, said:

"I am so happy that my daughter's rights have been vindicated by the complete withdrawal by Hft of its decision to close Furlong Close. I continue, however, to be very worried about her future and the future of the other 33 vulnerable residents of Furlong Close. Everything now depends on Wiltshire Council and Hft working in good faith to reach an agreement on the terms for Hft to continue to care for my daughter and the other residents at Furlong Close. If that doesn't happen then I fear we will be back in Court again, which isn't in anyone's interests."

Antonia Field, the Chair of the Families and Friends of Furlong Close, said:

"We have won an important battle, but not yet the war. It is now up to Wiltshire Council and Hft to live up to the promises they have made to respect the needs and wishes of our vulnerable relatives and their families and agree upon a long-term solution for Furlong Close, so that nothing like this ever happens again."