The Disabilities Trust has reluctantly come to the very difficult decision to close Hamilton Lodge, our residential service for people with autism and learning disabilities near Colchester in Essex. We announced the news to staff and families earlier today and are working with them on the most sensitive and appropriate way to inform the 23 people we support at the service. We are, of course, providing all concerned with support at this difficult time.

Working with the local authority funders, we will do all that we can to make sure that each resident moves safely and smoothly to a new home by the closure date of 28 July 2017. Regrettably all 78 staff who work at Hamilton Lodge are at risk of redundancy and are being consulted about redeployment opportunities elsewhere in the organisation. After the closure, the site will be secured pending a decision about its future.

I know that this is very disappointing news, but we believe that we have made the right decision for the people we support there and for the Trust. We want people to lead rich and fulfilling lives but the service is very isolated, in a rural area with poor public transport links – it severely limits individuals’ independence and their opportunities. Local authorities – rightly – want people with autism or learning disabilities to live in smaller 4 -5 bedded units or to be supported to live as independently as possible in the community, with easy access to shops and leisure activities. The remote location of Hamilton Lodge has meant that this has not been achievable and that we have also struggled to recruit and retain staff there. Furthermore, you will have seen in the media, in communications with managers and staff, and heard at various meetings and roadshows over recent months, that the funding world is very challenging. Local authorities and the NHS are setting tighter commissioning priorities and have smaller budgets - and this has contributed to us making significant financial losses at Hamilton Lodge over the years.

In the thirteen years since the Disabilities Trust took over the site, we have made every effort to support and to develop the service and invested in new buildings which opened in 2011, but given the impact on people’s independence, the staffing issues and the financial problems, we have had to make this tough decision and have agreed that closure is now the right approach.