Blesma home's future in doubt as roll numbers fall

A care home for Blackpool's bravest ex-servicemen and women is facing an uncertain future.

Saturday, 2nd July 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 4:20 pm
The Blesma home yesterday

Military charity Blesma has warned that its care home on Lytham Road, which has supported limbless veterans since 1949, has become ‘unsustainable’ – and that a possible closure is on the cards.

A decline in the number of residents at the home, along with a gradual loss of Blesma membership as a whole, means that staff are now struggling to make ends meet.

In a recent statement issued by the charity, a spokesman said: “Regrettably, our research points to a further decline in demand for the Blesma Home in Blackpool from Blesma members, and continuing operation of the home is becoming unsustainable for Blesma on its own.

The Duchess of Gloucester opens the home in June 1949.

“We have recently sought collaboration with other charities but none have been willing to partner.”

Six months ago, The Blesma Home was home to 25 decorated Second World War veterans. Now, as a result of recent deaths, there are only 11.

Hero soldier Rick Clement, who lost both of his legs in a bomb blast while on a tour in Afghanistan in May 2010, said closure of the care home would come as a great blow to veterans in Blackpool.

He said: “It’s very sad to hear. I stayed at the home for a short time while I was house-hunting and I got a lot of help from Blesma. It’s a place that is extremely close to my heart.

The Duchess of Gloucester opens the home in June 1949.

“The staff are fantastic and know just how to care for people with amputations, which sets them apart from a normal care home. It will be a great shame if it closes.”

The Blesma Home was opened by the Duchess of Gloucester in 1949 with the promise to provide support to limbless veterans and their families and advocate for their rights for the duration of their lives.

The service costs £1m per year to run, and receives funding from the community and forces lottery, organised events, charity donations and legacies.

Talbot ward councillor Ian Coleman, who was president of the British Legion for 20 years, said: “Blesma has been a wonderful premises for service personnel who have suffered through war.

“It has looked after and cared for so many marvellous people who served our country not only to the best of their ability, but above and beyond.

“There may not be the demand that there once was, but that doesn’t detract from the work they do.

“They do excellent work and I can only congratulate everyone there from the cleaners to the management.

“The care these people have been given has been fantastic and I do hope that it will remain open for forever and a day.

“There will always be a need for army personnel in this country, and as such there will always be a need for Blesma.”

Ian Waller, director of operations at Blesma, said: “We are currently in a period of consultation with staff with regards to the future of the home.

“There’s the possibility of closure, but we wouldn’t want to pre-judge the consultation process.

“No absolute decision has yet been made.

“Our highest priority is to provide great quality care for our residents and we will continue to do that.

“The needs of our residents will be put first, so if a decision is made to close there will be no deadline on it.”