New respite wing at care home creates 20 new jobs

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Philanthropy, community, the welfare of islanders and economic foresight are the ingredients which have combined to create a much needed new care facility in Stornoway.

In the space of four short months the empty shell of the upper floor at Bethesda Care Home was transformed into a space for nine en-suite bedrooms and a sitting room area.

Providing respite care since December, the unit has already proved its worth by caring for 123 people.

Its official opening took place on Tuesday afternoon, when Mary Ann Lamont cut the ribbon, on behalf of the family of Mary Anne Trump Barry, who had donated £150,000 to the project.

The unit cost £500,000 to create and has provided 20 more jobs at the care home, which now employs more than 80 staff, and boosts the local economy by an estimated £1.25m.

Recognising the need for the unit and the potential boon to the economy, funders were quickly sought and found with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, NHS Western Isles, and community windfarm initiatives in Tolsta and Horshader contributing to the cause.

However, that does not mean finding the money to make this facility a reality was easy. Another funding stream, which it was hoped would yield £100,000, to meet the full cost of the project failed to materialise when an application to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) was deemed not to meet the economic development agency’s criteria.

The reason for the application failure - from the grapevine - was that the charitable organisation had ‘too much money in its reserves’.

Talking about this disappointment at the opening ceremony the charity’s general manager Carol Sommerville, said: “There was a shortfall in the capital funding, which we thought would be met by a contribution from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, but unfortunately for us we did not meet the criteria set by them and they turned down our request for funding, even though we were creating jobs, developing skills and boosting the economy, three of their priorities in social enterprise.

“The shortfall came from our reserves, which have been built up through running a very tight budget, but still managing to provide a high standard of care.”

And as one of the guests commented following the opening ceremony: “You are taught to be prudent and build up a reserve in case of emergencies, but in this case that has worked against them.”

HIE recently produced a report detailing how their work has boosted the region over the last 12 months, with projects such as the Lochboisdale Port of Entry and Isle of Harris Distillery receiving help which boosted these fragile areas, and in the case of the distillery, created 17 jobs.

A £2.8m investment commitment was also made which will aid BASF Callanish Ltd on Lewis to expand and create a further 20 jobs, whilst supporting the 80 jobs currently.

The development agency highlighted how these decisions taken to underpin expansion and development across the Islands are expected to create or retain 855 jobs.

The Gazette asked HIE to explain their reasoning behind the refusal of the Bethesda funding application.

In answer, Rachel Mackenzie, HIE’s area manager, said: “HIE welcomes the opening of Bethesda’s new care unit, growing a social enterprise in Stornoway and creating vital jobs.

“This project was delivered successfully without requiring financial assistance from HIE.

“HIE is very keen to support Bethesda and have assisted them in different ways over the last five years and we look forward to working with them in the future to help them grow.”

Pictured is one of the rooms in the new respite care wing.