Council could sell off care homes

SUFFOLK County Council is set to undertake a review of its residential homes – and it could lead to some, or perhaps all, of the facilities being sold off.

SUFFOLK County Council is set to undertake a review of its residential homes – and it could lead to some, or perhaps all, of the facilities being sold off.

The authority is expected to approve the review – which would start in 2005 – at an executive committee meeting next week.

The move has been prompted by the council's commitment to become an "enabling" rather than a "providing" authority, and to modernise its services for older people.

Chris Lane, a spokesman for the council, said: "No decisions have been taken, this is a review with a full consultation period to come.

"There are a number of options, which may include some different ownership or management, but may not.

"The council is determined that there will be no loss of overall bed capacity as a result of the review."

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And Mr Lane stressed that the sale of all the council's homes to the private sector, while not being ruled out, was "very unlikely."

He added: "The reasons we are doing this include the fact that there are 1,000 more people over 65 in Suffolk each year, and many people are living longer, increasing the numbers of people with EMI (elderly mental infirm or dementia).

"Our homes are specialising already in EMI care. Also, we are bound to review our place in the market and to ensure that we are providing the most needed and most efficient care, perhaps that the independent sector doesn't provide.

"Most frail older people want to stay in their own home as long as is medically possible, and this is where the council, together with the NHS in Suffolk, is investing heavily.

"As home care grows, the need to place which people in residential care is changing.

"As this council is determined to keep to low council tax increases, we must make certain that all our spending on care for older people is exactly what our residents want and need, provided in the most cost-effective way."

The council has sold off four homes in recent years, and has just finished closing down a handful more – the last of which was Clench House in Holbrook – which were not modernised to the latest standards.

In their place new Very Sheltered Housing (VSH) Schemes have been created and will continue to be developed, allowing a combination of both independence and security.

Jeremy Pembroke, Conservative leader on the county council, said he welcomed the review but warned against reducing bed capacity.

"We don't necessarily need to sell off our own residential homes," he added.

"The important thing is that we don't lose any capacity and we must also spend much more on helping people to stay at home."

Mr Lane added: "No-one will lose out whatever the outcome of the review is, the council will continue to fulfil its duty of care to those people who need it.

"This review is about finding the most appropriate and most efficient care for local people who need it now or in the future."

If given the green light, the consultation would take several months to complete, with full implementation of the strategy by the financial year 2008/09.

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