A RESIDENTIAL home for people with physical disabilities is to be converted into independent living flats in a £2m development.

Social housing and care charity Blackwood says that a decline in demand for care in MacLehose Court in Eldon Street has led them to a dramatic change of direction.

As well as creating 18 new flats in MacLehose Court, the housing and care provider will also build eight new homes at James Watt Dock at the other end of town.

They are working with Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership, promising more opportunities for people with severe physical disabilities to live independently.

Blackwood chief executive Fanchea Kelly said: "We, along with the Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), have seen the increasing desire to move to an independent living model.

“It means we have struggled to keep MacLehose Court fully occupied over the last five years.

"This decline in demand has made it very difficult to maintain the financial viability of the development."

Blackwood plans to spend £1.4m building the new homes in James Watt Dock and another £750,000 remodelling MacLehose.

The developments will take place over the next two years with the new flats using a 'smart technology system' called CleverCogs to allow residents to live as independently as possible.

But the care provider accepted that it will be a difficult transition for many of their residents and their families.

Ms Kelly said: "We fully understand that this announcement and the forthcoming work will be unsettling for customers, families and staff, and we will work tirelessly with them to identify the best opportunities open to each individual.

"We knew it was important to be open and transparent about this decision and announce it at the earliest possible opportunity to give people time to work through what it means and the options available to them.

“We will set up discussions with every customer affected and their families to discuss the future and prepare personal plans to help people achieve the best possible outcomes from the move – be it a move to our new homes or an alternative residential setting.

“Likewise, it’s our commitment to work with each individual member of staff to provide ongoing support and direction throughout the transition period, while helping to maintain the high level of care every customer requires.”

Inverclyde HSCP has committed to moving away from residential care to assist people to live independently or stay in their own homes.

Boss Allen Stevenson said: “We’ve worked closely with Blackwood on this and it’s clear that the current service provision at MacLehose Court is not viable in the long term.

“Our feedback shows that most people now want to have as much control over their lives as possible and this shift in service places independent living at its core.

“The difficulty Blackwood has had in filling rooms at MacLehose Court shows that people are changing the way they think about residential care and this move means that Inverclyde will be at the forefront of modern care provision.”

Blackwood opened MacLehose Court 25 years ago.