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Lib Dems call for safety net for elderly Surrey residents with high or complex needs

March 20, 2012 10:30 AM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council are calling for the County's elderly with the highest or most complex needs to be cared for in residential homes run by the County Council as well as private sector care and home care for people with lower needs.

In a motion to the meeting of the full County Council today the Lib Dems will call for an open public debate about provision of care homes, following recent discussions behind closed doors at County Hall.

Lib Dem County Councillor John Orrick, who has the County Council run Dormers Care Home in his Caterham Hill division, says: "The Adult Social Care Committee on 22 February received a confidential verbal report entitled Review of in-house older people's residential homes. It is the role of members that we should set the policy framework for the Council, and as the Leader said when appointed, it is important we do this as openly and transparently as possible to ensure we get the right decision for Surrey's residents."

At present Surrey County Council owns 30 residential care homes for older people, of which 24 homes are leased and managed by private companies and 6 are run directly by the Council. Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition Cllr Hazel Watson says: "Liberal Democrats believe that a mix of homes run by the County Council, private care homes and home care needs to continue to ensure that there is a safety net for those with high or complex needs.

"Surrey County Council needs to plan ahead to ensure there are sufficient residential care home places for the elderly and that the quality of care, particularly for those with high or complex needs, is fully met.

"Care for those with high or complex needs is more expensive and funding being spread more thinly means it is becoming less financially viable for private companies to provide the standard of care needed.

"With an ageing population it is becoming increasingly important that Surrey County Council runs care homes for those most in need and plans adequately for the long term future. Given the instability in the private sector, as demonstrated with the recent collapse of Southern Cross, it is important that Surrey County Council runs some homes of its own to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable. The County Council should not put all its eggs in the private sector basket.

"We are seeing a shortage in school places across the County due to inadequate planning and the closing of school buildings in the past, which are now difficult to replace. We do not want to see the same mistakes made with care for the elderly as we are seeing in Surrey's schools."


Cllr John Orrick's motion says:

'This Council agrees that owing to an ageing population, a large number of older people will need care and support, and that:

More support should be provided to enable Surrey's older people to live in their own homes for as long as possible

Older people with high or complex needs require support in residential care homes and these should continue to be provided directly by the County Council. This would guarantee that the number of high quality places will be maintained given the instability within the private home care sector.'

Full text of Cllr John Orrick's speech:

The Adult Social Care Committee on 22 February received a verbal report in part 2 entitled "Review of in-house older people's residential homes".

It is not only unfortunate, but also unacceptable that any debate on the future of residential care home should take place solely in part 2 of a select committee. It is the role of members that we should set the policy framework for the Council, and as the Leader said when appointed, it is important we do this as openly and transparently as possible. Surrey's residents must be able to engage with us on any future plans and shape our decisions, you only have to look at the reaction to the former Leader's on-street parking plans to see how decisions taken without proper consultation came come back and bite you.

At that same meeting of the Adult Social Care Committee there was a very interesting report entitled "Older People's Mental Health and Dementia Strategy Update". Madam Chairman, if you haven't already, I recommend that you and all members read it.

The report outlined the range of differing services provided by Surrey County Council, the NHS and third sector organisations such as the Alzheimer's Society, and showed that good progress in Dementia care has taken place across the County. It also stated that there reduction in the number of residential placements for people with dementia from 138 placements in 2008/2009 to 110 placements in 2010/2011. Meaning more people can live in their own home for as long as they choose to. This is all good news, and my motion reaffirms and strengthens the County's commitment that the highest quality of support be given to enable Surrey's older people to live in their own homes as long as possible.

A Parliamentary answer last year revealed that in total 1819 homes for elderly and disabled people - one in ten of all care homes - are not meeting standards designed to protect residents from the risk of abuse. Almost as many were putting elderly people in danger because medicines were not administered safely, 1668 homes did not meet standards for respecting and involving people who use services while more than 1,600 did not even ensure frail and elderly people got the food and drink they needed.

When spot checks were carried out on hundreds of care homes and nursing wards earlier they showed one in three were failing some of the Care Quality Commission's standards.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK described the findings as "extremely worrying" and said the standards were about absolute essentials that any human being should expect to receive.

We have all seen the uncertainty caused by the collapse of Southern Cross, and there are concerns over other care home providers, especially among those providers who rent their properties.

Written evidence to the parliamentary Health Committee by Care UK, one of Surrey's private providers says: "service users with complex needs, or conditions that make them potentially vulnerable, may receive more appropriate, personalised care within a residential setting than in their own homes."

They go on to say "local authorities are only commissioning care for critical or substantial needs cases, which in themselves have increased in acuity-therefore staff are being asked to deal with higher levels of need with little or no extra remuneration."

And there lies the problem, with increasing pressures on care homes, tightening budgets and the situation where increasingly only those most in need are being placed in care homes, we are creating a situation where the most in need of care are being disproportionately given the least support and private care home providers are least likely to offer extra support as money is squeezed.

Private care home providers will therefore try to avoid the more complex cases with higher needs, and for this reason we must make sure that those with higher needs are supported by the County council directly.

We must put Surrey's most vulnerable residents first, young or old.

I beg to move the motion.