Union anger as home sell-off goes ahead
PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 April 2012
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AS Suffolk prepares to transfer its 16 council-run care homes to the private sector, the union representing 1,400 staff that work in them has launched a broadside against the county.
UNISON said the sell-off proved the New Strategic Direction was alive and well at Endeavour House – and feared that the sale would remove the safety net that ensures homes across the county are well run.
The county has confirmed that the sale of its care homes is to be debated at its cabinet meeting on April 17 – at which point the new owner of the homes will be announced.
Colin Noble, portfolio holder for adult and community services said: “We have been very thorough throughout the whole process and we shall be ensuring the very best solution for residents, their families and staff.
“We have looked at how they run existing homes and the importance they place on the level of care.”
He rejected claims that the county needed to run its own homes to provide a standard against which other operators could be judged.
Mr Noble said: “We are responsible for 2,300 in other care homes and have 476 residents in our own homes – we shall still be responsible for ensuring they all get the highest possible standard of care.”
He said that by 2030 the number of older people and those suffering with dementia in the county was expected to double and a “new approach” to care was being developed.
However the union was not impressed. A spokeswoman said: “UNISON is astounded by the determination of the county council to press ahead with plans to sell off Suffolk’s care homes despite the outpouring of public opinion against these proposals last year.
“We feel that this flies in the face of the so-called ‘public consultation’ exercise and commitment to listening to the views of the people of Suffolk.
“The ‘New Strategic Direction’ is alive and well in Suffolk, despite the departure of the previous chief executive.
“UNISON is concerned, not only for the 1,400 staff who will be forced to transfer to a new provider with potentially poorer terms and conditions, but also for Suffolk residents who will no longer have the safety net of Suffolk County Council should their care not be up to standard.”
Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for adult care Inga Lockington said: “We have to accept that with the make-up of the cabinet this proposal is likely to be approved.
“There must be safeguards to ensure that whoever takes over the homes does not reduce the level of service in any way – our homes are regarded as very good and residents like them very much. That must not change.”
Labour group leader Sandy Martin warned that by no longer having its own care homes, the council would not be able to set a standard by which others could be judged.
He added: “I am not at all certain that this will mean all the homes will be retained – that still needs to become clear.”
However Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who campaigned against threats to two care homes in his constituency, welcomed the move.
He said: “It is clear the county has listened to concerns and is transferring all the homes to a new operator.
“Most people just want to know that their homes are well run and offer a high standard of care, who owns them is not an issue.”
Suffolk County Council care homes:
1. The Dell, Beccles
2. Blyford, Lowestoft
3. Stradbroke Court, Lowestoft
4. Angel Court, Hadleigh
5. Sidegate Lane, Ipswich
6. Hawthorn Drive, Ipswich
7. Crabbe Street, Ipswich
8. Mills Meadow, Framlingham
9. Lehmann House, Wickham Market
10. Wade House, Stowmarket
11. Paddock House, Eye
12. Ixworth Court, Ixworth
13. Place Court, Haverhill
14. Wamil Court, Mildenhall
15. Davers Court, Bury St Edmunds
16. Glastonbury Court, Bury St Edmunds