WORK is set to start at a Hayle chapel to convert it into an innovative facility for older people with learning disabilities.
The owners of the Downes care home on Foundry Hill, will be carrying out the work, which will also see around 20 new jobs created – nearly double the current number of staff of 22.
The former chapel will be converted into 12 bedrooms and manager at the Downes, Steven McLean, is excited and passionate about the plans.
He said there were plenty of care homes in the country that would take an older person with a learning disability but that the carers often specialised in elder care or learning disability care.
The difficulty came when both of these types of care were needed.
The new facility at The Downes will mean that potentially an older parent carer can be looked after in the Downes itself, while their son or daughter can live in the new facility.
Mr McLean said he estimated from a previous research project that there were around 450 people over the age of 65 with a learning disability in the Penwith care area alone – but the true figure could be higher.
He said: "In the past when people had a child with a learning disability, they either put them into an institution... [But] people were afraid of that so what often happened was they hid them. They never even told social services that these people were born. They hid them and looked after them themselves."
Mr McLean said this practice was common in the 1950s and 1960s and that now there was a situation where the parent and carer was ageing and needed care themselves.
He said: "These people have lived together all their days and they don't want to be apart."
Once the work to the chapel is completed it will have space for 12 residents but Mr McLean predicted it would not be long before more rooms were needed.
"We are getting serious enquiries," he said. "When word gets out that it is there, then 12 rooms will not be not enough."
Rossanna Trudgian, senior campaigns officer at learning disability charity Mencap said the care home project was an interesting one but more needed to be done.
"We want to see councils doing much more to support families to make long-term plans for where their loved one will live," she said. "This needs to focus on enabling those who want to live independently to be able to do so – we know that the majority of people with a learning disability want to live more independently, but are unable to do so, because of a lack of suitable housing."