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Couple suffering from brain damage ‘racked with fear’ over care cuts

Appeal to save Bramshurst Outreach care services

02 June, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Kate Brooks (centre) with her sister Mary Mellor and Camden Unison’s Phil Lewis

KATE Brooks suffered a stroke in her twenties that caused lasting brain damage, leaving her unable to walk and with heavily slurred speech. Now 60, the former Hampstead School pupil who grew up in Belsize Park, requires care in her council flat at the Regent’s Park estate.

Despite her disability, she is registered as the main carer for her husband, Tony, who is also a wheelchair user, has no memory and cannot speak at all after suffering even worse brain damage in a motorbike crash as a teenager.

The couple are now “racked with fear” after the council agreed to shut down their specialist care service because of the “financial climate”. “It is people like this that do not have a voice who end up suffering the most,” said Kate’s sister, Mary Mellor, who lives in Belsize Park. The couple have for several years relied on the “Bramshurst” care service that provides adapted housing for brain-damaged Camden residents and also an outreach service for those that “live in the community”.

With a client base who are among the most vulnerable in the borough, the service provides highly trained carers from its base, off Abbey Road in West Hampstead. Despite Kate’s at times incomprehensible speech, the carers are able to precisely decipher what she is saying. Mary said: “The Bramshurst is such a unique project. It’s importance is so enormous and great, that you would think that it could not be something that could just be done away with. The Bramshurst outreach carers have been trained to talk to people with brain injuries. They can understand Kate and Tony, when no one else can really understand what they say.”

She added: “The council says the Bramshurst service is too niche to continue to provide. What they should be doing is broadening the project, not shut it down. Camden Council have not been to interview any of the clients during their decision-making process, which we believe if they had, they would have seen how desperately vulnerable these people are and how dependent they are on this care. I just want to get Kate and Tony out of that awful rat-hole and get them somewhere safe. They shouldn’t be on their own in a flat like that.”

Kate and Tony first met seven years ago when they were living in separate flats in the Bramshurst. They got married and decided they wanted to live in the “community” in a council home, with carers coming to the home and available throughout the day at the end of the phone. “Sadly it has been a disaster,” said Mary. “The flat is completely unsuitable, they need 24-hour care. There are rats. They cannot go outside, there is no garden to speak of, just the Hampstead Road.”

The ground-floor flat is right in the heart of the HS2 development zone and next to large housing blocks that are due to be demolished early next year. Phil Lewis, from Camden Unison, is representing Bramshurst carers who are affected by the changes. Camden Council says it is being forced into making extreme changes to adult social care provision after successive government austerity budgets. In a report justifying the closure in December, the council said: “It is clear we are moving beyond the easier savings, such as changes to contracts, into harder budget reductions, requiring cultural change and a clear set of expectations across the system.”

A Camden Council spokesman said: “The difficult decision to close Bramshurst was not made lightly. Over time the needs and circumstances of its small number of users have changed, meaning that the service is not sustainable in the current financial climate. “All users of Bramshurst services have an allocated social worker who is working with them to find and put in place alternative support plans.”

A petition to save the Bramshurst Outreach project has been set up online by Kate’s niece, Phoebe Mellor.

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