Local Government Association
The recession is being blamed for the closure of independently run care homes in nearly 1 in 7 local authority areas, council leaders warned today. Town halls across the country are acting to try to prevent a shortage of residential places for older or disabled people.
A Local Government Association survey of council social services staff found almost 15 per cent of authorities have already seen closures put extra pressure on the supply of places. More than three quarters of councils expect to feel the impact of further closures in the future.
Councils are introducing initiatives to speed up payments and keep bureaucracy to a minimum, with the aim of easing some of the economic pressures on care home operators. At least one authority has embarked on a public private partnership (PPP) project to build a new home.
Among the authorities taking steps to address the problems affecting care homes are:
* POOLE where a policy of fortnightly payment to providers is in place, one week in arrears and one in advance, to provide as much financial stability as possible.
* SOUTHAMPTON where a new care home built as part of a PPP scheme is due to open in December, offering 40 state funded beds and a day centre.
* SOMERSET where the council works with the Registered Care Providers Association (RCPA) to help identify homes in difficulty at an early stage. Block contracts are used to give operators as consistent an income as possible, and an extra premium payment is available to homes offering the highest standards of care.
Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the LGA, said:
“The impact of the recession is being felt up and down the country - by everyone from hard-pressed families to struggling businesses. Steps to help care homes stay open are among the many examples of things councils are doing to protect their residents from the downturn as much as possible.
“People who live in care homes are some of the most vulnerable in the country. Any warning signs that there could be problems providing places where they can be properly cared for need to be identified in good time, which councils are clearly doing.
“Town halls are taking decisive action. By co-operating with private operators and taking the lead on providing alternative care, councils are ensuring people living in many residential homes will be spared upheaval and worry. Councils are taking on the challenge of delivering the best they possibly can despite these tricky financial times.”
The country’s ageing population has been putting the services which care for older people under increased strain. The number of over 65s is predicted to increase by around three million to 11.4 million people by 2025. There will also be a massive increase in over 85s, a third of whom are expected to develop dementia.
The LGA has called for the care of our ageing population to be among the top three priorities for all political parties, and has proposed key recommendations to improve the care of older people and ease the burden on the taxpayer.
Cllr David Rogers, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Everyone needs to be involved in the debate about how we provide the vital services which vulnerable people deserve and councils want to provide, particularly during these tough financial times.
“The recession has brought forward some of the very difficult issues which we all have to confront, about how we best care for more and more elderly people, and how we pay for it. Councils are happy to stretch themselves in these exceptional circumstances to help care home providers stay in business, but their pockets are not bottomless.”