Blesma Home closes doors on 67-year legacy

A care home for Blackpool's bravest war veterans has closed its doors forever.

Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 8:26 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 4:39 pm
The Blesma Home stands empty for the first time in 67 years

The last remaining residents of the Blesma Home have been moved out this week as the military charity prepares to draw the curtain on the service which has championed the rights of limbless ex-servicemen for almost 70 years.

Some 12 decorated Second World War veterans have been relocated to different care homes across the North West, while 30 members of staff have been made redundant.

Former Blesma resident and RAF veteran Harry Foster, 93, who lost an eye while navigating a night time air raid over Germany during the Second World War, said: “Blesma Home was very good because we were with our own folk. You were with the same people as you were with during the war.

“We were not pleased to leave, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We can’t order it to stay open. We didn’t have a choice.”

Blesma officials warned that the Lytham Road home, which supported limbless veterans since it’s grand opening in 1949, had become ‘unsustainable’ in June as a result of a decline in the number of residents, along with a gradual loss of Blesma membership as a whole.

In a statement issued by the charity, chief executive Barry Le Grys insisted high-quality care would continue to be provided for all residents, as they would receive regular visits from Blesma support officers in their new homes.

He said: “We will be making more grants available to assist care needs of members and widows in their own homes and in care elsewhere. Ultimately we believe what we will offer will be more relevant, fairer, efficient, and sustainable for all of our members.

“The last 12 residents have been resettled to new homes of their choice in consultation with families and guardians. Continued high quality of care is paramount and the residents will experience no financial hardship. Blesma is committed to their care for life.”

He added that redundancy payment and professional coaching for new employment had been given to staff.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “It is a very sad day. We owe an enormous amount to the people who have worked hard at the Blesma Home over the years and I think it’s a great shame the site could not have been maintained as a centre for looking after veterans.

“Obviously circumstances change and Blesma has unfortunately been unable to maintain the numbers needed to make the home viable.

“At a time when veterans’ issues attract a lot of public attention I can only hope this will not detract in any way from the support that we give to veterans’ charities across the community.”

The Blesma Home was opened by the Duchess of Gloucester in 1949 with the promise to provide support to limbless veterans and their families for the duration of their lives. The service cost £1m per year to run, and received funding from the community and forces lottery, organised events, charity donations and legacies.

Hero soldier Rick Clement, from Blackpool, was given invaluable support from the Blesma Home after losing both of his legs in a bomb blast while serving in Afghanistan in May 2010.

He said: “I’m gutted that the home has closed because it was a fantastic facility. As someone who stayed at the Blesma Home for a short period of time I know what amazing work the staff do – but times have changed and these places cost a lot to keep going.

“We have to now put our faith in the board of trustees that they will continue to support our limbless veterans in other ways.”

Talbot ward councillor Ian Coleman, who was president of the British Legion for 20 years, said: “The Blesma Home was a Godsend to many limbless veterans and it is with a sad heart that we see such premises closed.”