Concern over council care homes

PENSIONERS' groups last night expressed concern after it emerged that Suffolk County Council could sell off its remaining seventeen care homes.The authority's cabinet will meet next week to decide whether to push ahead with a consultation on the future provision of residential and nursing care in Suffolk.

PENSIONERS' groups last night expressed concern after it emerged that Suffolk County Council could sell off its remaining seventeen care homes.

The authority's cabinet will meet next week to decide whether to push ahead with a consultation on the future provision of residential and nursing care in Suffolk.

If agreed, one of the four options in the review will be to “externalise” all the homes owned by the council through a tender process thus “selling them as going concerns.”

The other options include doing nothing, exploring the possibility of leasing homes to an independent provider or examining a variety of care models.


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Last night Jane Midwood, council portfolio holder for adult care and community cervices, told the EADT that any talk of a sell-off was “jumping the gun.”

However, Jack Thain, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners Association, said he was concerned about the possibility.

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He added: “The question that immediately springs to mind is, if they sell these off, is the private sector going to put rates up sky high because there's no competition?

“Seventeen care homes is one hell of a lot of places to sell off. It's something that I'm going to look into. I would also be concerned about the staff in these homes and how they would be affected.

“I would want to hear a good justification for the whole thing.”

Next week's meeting comes as the over-65 population in Suffolk is set to increase by 30% over the next ten years, putting greater financial pressure on the council if it continues to fund care home places as it does now.

At the moment, the council buys 84% of care places from private homes, with the remaining 16% covered by the authority's homes, which also employ around 1,000 staff.

In all, 538 elderly people are supported in the homes and a further 2,912 are cared for either in private care facilities or in nursing care at a total cost of £40 million.

It is not the first time that council care homes have faced a shakeup - in 1998 the authority voted to close five homes, sell off another four and refurbish a further three.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said of the possible sell-off: “It's a concern because of the fact it will worry lots of elderly people.

“I know that, from talking to people in homes, they get very worried that the place they feel comfortable and safe in will see some major changes.

“Last time it happened they were talking about is as 'they're selling us', rather than the home because they see it as a package.

“It will cause a lot of worry for elderly people and their families, however well it's done.

“The really important thing, if it's decided that these homes are disposed of, is to ensure that the same standard of care continues, because council homes are very good.”

But last night Mrs Midwood stressed the whole process was at a very early stage.

She added: “The future needs of Suffolk's ageing population are at the heart of this report. It is important that we look ahead, talk to people and make our plans now.

“We need to ensure that we are able to offer the best care we can. All the options will be discussed fully at the Cabinet meeting in March once the review is complete.”

Of fears of a homes sell-off, Mrs Midwood said: “That is really jumping the gun - people are making assumptions.”

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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