Inquiry proposed to investigate how dead bodies went undiscovered for months
PUBLISHED: 16:26 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 20:21 22 August 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
An independent inquiry could be held after two dead bodies went undiscovered at a retirement home for months, following cuts to care support funding.
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said the case would be referred after the tragedies at Mussidan Place in Woodbridge sparked fierce criticism about the removal of warden visits in April 2018.
MORE: 'Callous' care cuts blamed after bodies left rotting in retirement properties for months
Mr Hicks also requested an "urgent meeting" with Flagship Homes, which owns the properties.
Concerns escalated after neighbours told how bodies found on February 9 and August 8 had gone undiscovered for months.
Residents criticised SCC for cutting a sheltered housing grant which funded warden visits to check on their welfare, saying the bodies would have been found sooner if the support had not been withdrawn. They said the care provided at Mussidan Place had been repeatedly cut back leaving just emergency pull cords to raise the alarm - and even those could be unreliable.
Mr Hicks said providers, including Flagship, had been notified about the cuts in 2016 so they could find other ways to offer support when the funding ended in 2018.
He said housing providers managed their own budget, including whether to provide wardens, alarms or other services.
"I feel strongly that this is not the time to be apportioning blame between agencies," he added.
"It is the time to extend our sympathy and support to the friends and family of the deceased residents and to investigate fully to ensure that this does not happen again."
But Caroline Page, who represents Woodbridge at SCC, said the council had "failed in its duty of care". Ms Page said the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group had raised concerns about the cuts back in December 2017.
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She said that despite an increase in precepts, the council still proposed "shocking" £11m cuts to care purchasing, £1m of which related to the sheltered housing grant.
"We argued this cut would reduce support for independent living and might well lead to individual tragedies," she added. "Our concerns have been proven to be all too well-founded, and to have had a shocking human cost."
Flagship offered its condolences to the dead residents' families. It said the changes to support were due to funding cuts. "The welfare and safety of our customers' environment is paramount," a spokesman added.
Brother was 'very happy' in retirement home
The sister of one of the dead residents has thanked authorities for their "great kindness and sensitivity".
Paul Giejgo, a 69-year-old master carpenter, whose body was found in February, had moved into Mussidan Place after a period of homelessness and was said to be "very happy that he was finally in his own place and feeling safe".
His sister said Mr Giejgo valued his privacy and Woodbridge allowed him to live quietly and creatively.
"I would like to state Suffolk police, the coroner's office, the housing association and all others involved after his death showed great kindness, sympathy and sensitivity," she said. "Suffolk gave Paul a home and dignity in the final years of his life, and we are all very grateful for this."
She said the coroner recorded a death from natural causes but had not been able to determine the exact date. Police found Mr Giejgo's body on February 9 after being alerted to family concerns.