Council may expand sheltered homes
MORE council-owned residential care homes in Suffolk could be replaced with sheltered housing complexes over the next few years, it has emerged.The county council – which has transformed five homes into sheltered housing complexes in the last few years – is overseeing a review of its 17 remaining homes.
By Jonathan Barnes
MORE council-owned residential care homes in Suffolk could be replaced with sheltered housing complexes over the next few years, it has emerged.
The county council - which has transformed five homes into sheltered housing complexes in the last few years - is overseeing a review of its 17 remaining homes.
It could see more homes included in the council's Very Sheltered Housing (VSH) scheme as it transfers care home places to the independent sector.
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Anthony Douglas, director of social care and health, said the authority preferred to replace its homes in such a way, often in partnership with housing associations, rather than selling them as going concerns.
"We have further schemes of this nature coming on stream in the next few years, and have applied for further central Government funding to develop additional schemes," he said.
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"We see this direct replacement programme as a better way of re-providing our current residential care homes, than by selling them as going concerns to the independent sector."
He said the current scheme "will release savings for reinvestment in services to help older people live at home, has secured external capital investment, generated capital receipts and provides a high quality of care for those residents who transferred and to new tenants."
But Mr Douglas said no decisions would be taken on the future of existing council-owned care homes until the ongoing review was complete.
He added the council was not ruling out any options on the homes - including selling them.
The council has come under attack from David Ruffley, the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, for failing to transfer enough care home places to the independent or voluntary sector.
Government figures show no council care home places were transferred to the independent sector in Suffolk in 2000/2001 or 2001/02, although there were 280 in 2002/03.
Mr Ruffley said: "These Government figures show that Suffolk County Council has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to transferring care home places out of council ownership.
"As a result they are letting Suffolk's older people and their families down. The council has made the bed-blocking crisis worse.
"I shall be urging Suffolk County Council to get on with the job of freeing up care home provision in Suffolk and encouraging the expansion of the independent and voluntary sector. This is the only way to end the bed-blocking shambles in our county."
But Mr Douglas said the authority's policy on social care was "balanced" and that he was "proud" of the existing mix of service provision.