Worthing disability home closure: 'My son is very frightened and I feel helpless'

A Worthing mum has pledged to fight 'tooth and nail' against plans to close a supported living facility for people with disabilities.

Southdown Housing Association has started consultations to close St Paul’s Court Supported Living Learning Disability Service, on Richmond Road, by the end of February 2022.

Jane Bellinger said she felt 'distraught' after discovering the news that her son's home could soon be permanently lost.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

David, 33, lives with Asperger's Syndrome. He is one of five people offered 24/7 support at the facility, which has been operating since 2004.

Jane Bellinger said she felt 'distraught' after discovering the news that her son's home could soon be permanently lost

Ms Bellinger said: "My son is very anxious, very frightened, and I feel helpless. It's come out of the blue.

"I'm 68 and my biggest fear is what happens when I'm not here anymore. That's what frightens me.

"They take the rug from under your feet.

"Everything is in place for him and he's safe. I will fight this tooth and nail."

Jane Bellinger and her son, David, (inset) who lives at St Paul's Court in Worthing

Why is the service closing?

Southdown said the closure decision was taken because suitable new referrals to the service had 'significantly reduced', which resulted in the current service model proving 'unsustainable'.

Chief executive Neil Blanchard said that, over the coming months, staff will be working closely with the five individuals and their families 'to help them find new homes and support tailored to their needs'. The care and support team will also be offered the opportunity to work at other Southdown services.

Mr Blanchard said that, whilst the current service model will end in February next year, the property will be retained to provide supported housing to meet 'alternative priority needs'.

'They are chucking him out of his home'

Ms Bellinger said that, of the ten available, three flats have been empty for months.

However, she questioned the decision to remove the service entirely, adding: "There's plenty of people like my David that could use that space.

"Staff are there 24/7. He can go up into the staff flat in an evening and talk to them.

"I can't see that happening at another place. I'm really frightened.

"It's a terrible indictment on society. They are chucking him out of his home.

"They said they are the only facility in Worthing that takes care of the mental state of their clients.

"I've got to fight to find him suitable accommodation with the right support."

'I hope it's not the end of supported living'

Worthing resident Michael Douglass, one of the first tenants to be welcomed at St Paul's Court, also expressed his sadness over the decision.

"I was really shocked to hear the news," he said. "I was one of the many firsts in November 2004 to get a flat there... after leaving foster care which I had been in for 13 years.

"St Paul's Court was an awesome first place to call home. The staff there from the beginning were so helpful and kind.

"The service gave great support to help you become independent, helping individuals to cook, clean and shop for food."

Mr Douglass, who has autism, said the facility had a 'great impact on my life', helping him to clear his debts before moving into his own rented accommodation and start his own dog-walking business.

He added: "My needs were milder than the majority of people living there [but] I now have a better view of the world around me.

"It was really good fun and It's a shame it's going.

"I can't believe the need for people to get support is lacking.

"I really hope that, one day, that it comes back into play. We are always going to have people who struggle with daily life on their own.

"I hope it's not the end of supported living. Everyone deserves a chance to live on their own and experience the real world."

Mr Blanchard said St Paul’s Court has been a 'fantastic local service' in Worthing for the past 17 years.

"We’re really proud of the amazing support our colleagues have provided over the years and of how clients of the service have developed their skills and independence," he said.

"We’d also like to thank everybody connected to St Paul’s Court and the local community for all their support over the years.”