Grandparents ‘patronised and frightened’ by coronavirus messaging at retirement complex
- Credit: TERI GAVIN-JONES
A housing firm has apologised for its coronavirus messaging at an independent living development in Hadleigh after residents spoke out about the “frightening” tone they claim made them feel like they were in prison.
Residents at the Tyefield Place retirement community said they feel frightened and have started a petition against a service charge for staffing PPE costs, adding they feel like they are being “taken advantage of” as a result of coronavirus.
The 35-apartment development is owned by McCarthy & Stone, which opened the site in Pound Lane in the summer of last year.
McCarthy & Stone has since apologised for the communications which were put in place during the pandemic, which warned residents that “careless walks cost lives” and “corridors are not for conversations”.
They said the safety and wellbeing of their homeowners and their staff is always their top priority, and they are sorry for any stress these messages may have caused.
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Carole Wheatley, who owns a one-bedroom apartment with her husband John, said she felt “disgusted” by the messaging.
She said: “It felt like I was in prison. We are all quite sensible here and for some of us these conversations might be the only one we have that day, so it was very patronising.”
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Mrs Wheatley’s daughter, Teri Gavin-Jones, complained to McCarthy & Stone about the messaging.
“This was not the message we wanted them to have, no one ever said don’t walk,” said Mrs Gavin-Jones, aged 53.
“The tone was actually quite frightening. These people are adults, not children, but all the decision-making was taken away from them.”
Mrs Gavin-Jones said she felt McCarthy & Stone were “capitalising from coronavirus” to make money from her parents and other residents.
Joy Campbell, who lives alone in the complex and hasn’t seen her sons since February, said having a conversation with a neighbour was so important.
“I’m lonely,” said Mrs Campbell. “So if I am 8ft apart from someone in the corridor there is no reason why I can’t speak to them.”
A spokesman for McCarthy & Stone said: “The safety and wellbeing of our homeowners and our staff is always our top priority.
“Over the last five months we’ve been closely following government guidelines and have introduced a number of new processes and protocols across our developments to keep everyone as safe as possible.
“We’re grateful that so many of our homeowners have supported us in this endeavour, and whilst we don’t take anything for granted, we’re pleased that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on our developments has been 27% lower than the wider over 65s population, and four times below the general over 85 population.
“At Tyefield Place we have not had any confirmed cases.
“Keeping our homeowners informed and connected during the pandemic has been essential to this success, and posters and information packs on site have played an important role.
“That said, we appreciate that the fast-moving situation has meant our communications at times could be improved so we’ve taken down content where this has been requested and we are sorry for any stress it may have caused.
“We remain wholeheartedly committed to supporting our homeowners through this unusual period. We will continue to closely monitor government guidance and update our protocols to ensure our homeowners are supported as much as possible.”
Anger at costs of PPE
Residents have also been in uproar after it emerged that an extra cost of around £6 per month would be added to their service bills to pay for the PPE that staff were using at the complex.
The homeowners say there is just one house manager at the site, who only recently started wearing a mask, but the total payment would be more than £200 per month for all 35 apartments.
“They just keep wanting more, and it’s not fair on us,” said Mrs Campbell, who admits she would leave the complex if she had the choice. “They are taking advantage of us.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Wheatley said the sudden extra fee has upset her. She said she also feels they should be reimbursed for not being able to use the communal lounge since March, which all residents pay for.
On top of the usual £25 to hire out the guest lounge, where relatives can stay the night, residents claim they will now be charged an extra £30 for the space to be deep-cleaned after it is used.
McCarthy & Stone said it had done as much as it could to absorb the financial impact of Covid-19, but budgets will be passed onto their homeowners.
A spokesman for McCarthy & Stone said: “As per government guidance, PPE is now essential for us to continue offering our homeowners support and care in the safest way possible, whilst minimising the risk of illness in our communities.
“As a company we have done as much as we can to absorb the financial impact of Covid-19, including claiming cover from the government where this is possible.
“As PPE is now required for all our staff to perform their daily work, the budgets will be passed on to our homeowners in the same way that all of our staffing costs are. PPE will only be provided to each development on demand, so homeowners will only be paying for the equipment our house and estate managers feel they need.
“Transparency around this process and charge is really important to us and we have been in contact with everyone on our developments so they understand how it will be applied.
“The cost is passed through without any mark-up and our teams have worked hard to secure the best value PPE contracts, to ensure the charges passed on to our homeowners are as low as they can be.
“We appreciate this is a new development for us and our homeowners, but it really is for the continued health and safety of everyone.”