A council-run care home that is set to be shut down could be turned into a new special school.

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s cabinet will decide today whether to shut Charlton House care home in Keynsham down, after a public consultation on the proposal was held last year. Now, the council is now looking at redeveloping the site into a residential school for secondary school age children with complex needs such a “severe autism.”

Council cabinet member for adult services Alison Born told a council scrutiny panel on February 5: “The development of this school will enable us to meet the needs of vulnerable young people in their local area, which we are not able to do currently. So it will support close family ties and support access to the local community, local friendships, and — going forward — employment and training.”

Charlton House care home was taken over by Bath and North East Somerset Council in 2020 and a Care Quality Commission report in 2022 rated the home “inadequate.” It found that one person had been left sitting in urine overnight, another had an “unexplained bruise” to their chest, and staff did not call for medical assistance for seven hours after one person had suffered a stroke.

The home has since improved and been upgraded to “requires improvement.” The council closed one floor of the care home after the damning report and now only 10 people are living at the 30-bed care home.

But council cabinet member for adult services Alison Born told a council scrutiny panel on February 5 that it was not cost effective to run the small nursing home. She added that the council was currently having to send vulnerable children to privately-run residential schools out of area with high costs, and it would be cheaper to provide somewhere local.

Head of education and inclusion at the council, Rosemary Collard, told the meeting the building was “ideal” for a school and would only require minimal adaptations. She said: “We are very very keen to get this school open as soon as possible. We have the money already allocated to do the works and get the school open.”

But councillor Joanna Wright, who sits on the scrutiny panel, warned: “We could be in a situation where we close down Charlton House, then you decide this isn’t the right thing and we are left with an empty building that we then sell off.”

Ms Born insisted: “I think its very likely — given the information that we have — that it will go ahead. I think its very unlikely we will be selling this building off.”

The council does not expect to make anyone redundant, with enough vacancies in social care for the council to find new positions for the 19 people who currently work at Charlton House. But this may mean people are forced to take up jobs outside Keynsham they may find hard to access.

But Leslie Mansell, another councillor on the scrutiny panel, slammed the “managed decline” of Charlton House, adding that care had been recognised as “good” in the last CQC report despite it being “requires improvement” overall. She said: “Clearly there is a need for support for young people with complex needs; I don’t doubt that. But there is also needs of these people that are currently in that home.”

If the plan is approved by the council cabinet, the council will deregister the 10 remaining places at the care home, with the building to be vacated after the necessary notice period to residents and consultation period for staff. It is hoped that it could open as a school within 18 months. Councils cannot open schools themselves, so a procurement process would be carried out to find a provider.

Of the 45 people who responded to the consultation last year, 36% were in support of closing down Charlton House and 40% were opposed, with the remainder saying they did not know or have an opinion.

The kitchen at the care home currently provides meals to neighbouring Hawthorn Court and surrounding sheltered bungalows. This could continue, with the council’s employment service offering it as an opportunity for pupils at the school to gain skills.

LDRS, John Wimperis