Residents celebrate at the New Bradley Hall care home in Kingswinford.
An old mate of mine, Phil Vanes, was – on his own admission – a bit of a fence-sitter. He never got involved in politics or anything remotely controversial. He kept his head down, as most people do, and just got on with his life. The struggle for a better, fairer world was for others.
Then about six months ago, all that changed. The care home where his mother-in-law had been staying for years– New Bradley Hall in Kingswinford, near Dudley in the West Midlands – was condemned to closure by the local council. Phil, and his wife Rita, decided to fight this reckless and damaging decision and embarked on a campaign that has dominated, and changed, their lives.
They helped form an action group and set about raising a petition. The council had only given the home three weeks notice before the closure decision would be rubber stamped and in that short space of time the action group raised 5000 signatures, which meant that the council was obliged to hear one of the group address them at the council meeting. And so the fight back began.
Others joined in. The group lobbied, demonstrated, wrote letters to the press, MPs, local councillors, appeared on local TV... anything that would highlight the insanity of closing down the home. On and on they went, refusing to give up, despite it looking like a lost cause on many occasions.
Then a few days ago the local council announced they would keep the home open. It was brilliant news. All the hard work and persistence had paid off. Still, Phil is under no illusions. He says he is keeping his eye on the ball. After all it has been know for politicians to lie. But for now the home is safe.
It might not seem much in the grand scheme of things, a small care home in Dudley being saved from closure, but it is a huge thing in the lives of all those concerned.
I’m proud of my mate Phil. And what he and the others involved have shown is that by refusing to give up small battles can become big victories.