Suffolk: Six care homes face closure in shake-up

SCORES of old people are to move care homes in a radical shake-up by Suffolk County Council.

The county’s 16 council-run homes are set to be handed to private sector operator Care UK next month – and six are likely to be closed over the next few years.

Residents of the homes earmarked for closure, which include premises in Hadleigh, Ixworth, Wickham Market and Beccles, will be moved to other homes in the county.

The remainder of the homes will be knocked down and replaced with bigger premises to room additional beds, and will offer more specialist care for people with dementia.

The county’s cabinet is due to discuss the changes at its meeting next Tuesday – and the sale is expected to be endorsed.

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Cabinet member with responsibility for adult care, Colin Noble, said he was visiting all the county council -owned care homes to discuss the proposals with residents, their families, and staff.

He said: “We will be working with the residents and their families to ensure we get the best possible solution for them. There will be some disruption, but we want to this to be done as well as possible.

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“If people want to stay together with their friends that should not be a problem.”

Mr Noble said there were currently 526 places in the county’s 16 residential homes. Once Care UK had taken over and redeveloped the sites there would be 680 places across the county – all suitable for residents suffering from dementia. Of these, 370 places would be contracted to the council.

At present there are 9,000 people in Suffolk diagnosed with dementia. By 2030 that figure is expected to double and the �60million that Care UK was proposing to invest in care homes across Suffolk would be a significant improvement.

The changes would mean some communities would see their care homes close – but Mr Noble said everything was being done to try to ease this situation, and in some places there were already private sector homes available if residents did not want to move out of their community.

He added: “If Cabinet approve the proposed changes, each care home resident attending a wellbeing centre will be allocated a social care worker to support them through the changes to ensure they continue to receive the care the need.” All permanent members of staff will transfer to Care UK on their current terms and conditions. Staff and unions have been kept up to date throughout the process. This will continue as the project progresses.

“The new homes will benefit from bigger rooms with en suite facilities and access to safe outside garden spaces.

“As well as the new homes being built for the future care needs we know about, the homes will be flexible enough in layout and design to ensure that further changes in care needs can be met.”

Labour group leader Sandy Martin was unconvinced by the privatisation proposal.

He said: “I’m not sure that there is any reason to believe that the service will be that much better run by a private company than it is as part of the public sector.

“I also remember that when we refurbished Crabbe Street in Ipswich when we were running the county council, we were told it is better to have smaller, more homely centres.

“Now we are told that larger homes are better because they are more efficient and can offer more services – you cannot have it both ways.”

Liberal Democrat group leader David Wood added: “When you consider the amount of disruption that will be caused to people who are by definition very vulnerable, I have to say we would be very concerned about this.”

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