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Council prepares to decide fate of care homes

Thursday, 12th May 2011.

The fate of care homes in Suffolk, including Haverhill's Place Court, will be decided this month.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet will decide on the way forward for the county's 16 residential care homes - and will be recommended to move ahead with a proposal which will allow the council to stop directly running its homes.

Instead, it will seek expressions of interest from a wide range of organisations, businesses and other community enterprises - including its own staff - in a bid to reduce costs and secure the future of the care homes.

The council will carefully assess each bid and bidder to ensure new plans are robust, provide stability and quality of service. Eventually this will lead to a saving of 4m per year.

The proposal follows a three-month 'conversation' with residents, families and staff in which over 1,000 responses were received.

The key findings from the conversation were that:
53 per cent of people favoured selling homes 'as going concerns';
31 per cent said they did not agree with any of the options;
Ten per cent of responders said they supported closing some homes and transferring the remaining homes to the independent sector;
Six per cent of people thought that all the homes should be closed.

If agreed, leading commercial and property advisers KMPG will work with the council to provide essential expertise and generate interest in the homes within the independent sector.

They will be charged with ensuring the council gets the best possible value from any sale whilst guaranteeing residents are not adversely affected by the changes.

Cllr Colin Noble, the council's portfolio holder for adult and community services, said: "I'd like to thank sincerely the people who took the time to come forward and give us their opinions on the future of Suffolk's care homes. Getting the views of residents and service users has been an essential part of this difficult process.

"What has become clear from our work on the council's future budgets is that we are, regrettably and because of Government cuts, no longer in a position where we can afford to continue running and improving residential care homes ourselves.

"We therefore need to look at new ways of providing care for older people - whilst protecting them from uncertainty and unnecessary upheaval.

"That's why we are looking at what we think is the best possible option given the circumstances.

"I want to make one thing absolutely clear. One of the options we were looking at was closing all care homes. I'm pleased to say we're not going forward with that option today.

"We remain committed to providing high-quality care for the most vulnerable people in our communities - and want to work with colleagues in the independent sector who are equality committed to ensuring high-quality care continues.

"I hope that by working hand-in-hand with the community, we will be able to do the right thing for Suffolk as a whole."

Of the 2,800 people Suffolk County Council provides care home places for, just 526 live in the council's 16 residential homes. The majority of care home places the council arranges for older people, 2,300, are in independent sector care homes which provide quality care.

The change was made necessary because of a 28 per cent reduction in central government funding to Suffolk County Council - meaning 125m needs to be saved from the council's budget in the next four years and that funding to make necessary improvements to council-run care homes is no longer available.

Residents, relatives, councillors and MPs, the NHS, district and borough councils, representative organisations for older people and family carers and care home staff were all involved in the conversation. There were also meetings at all 16 homes led by Cllr Noble.

The number of older people in Suffolk is set to grow from 67,000 now to 127,000 in 2030, a 90 per cent increase.

The number of older people with dementia in Suffolk is expected to double to 18,000 by 2030. The county council says it wants to act now before the quality of care it provides to those people is affected.

The report and recommendations will be presented to the council's cabinet on Tuesday.

Haverhill Online News

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