A trip around the county

As promised in the October Cabinet paper about the future of Residential Care Homes in Suffolk, we are just about to embark on visit to all 16 of the council run homes with our first tomorrow at Lehmann House in Wickham Market.

The format is that managers have had advance sight of the information and lots of information is being sent to each home for the day. Each meeting is scheduled to last 2 hours which we feel should give us plenty of time to discuss and develop ideas with people. I will open each meeting with a short presentation of facts and figures about the issues before us for about 10 minutes or so; then open up the meetings for Residents, Families and Carers; not to mention our excellent staff who welcome to come in towards the end to ask questions or in certain locations because space is tight we will be having meeting after each with the staff.

We have not made up our minds as to how to do this that is what we are now doing and I really hope from the meetings is that the discussions with officers helping me to answer what I am sure will be a wide range of questions and opinions, will give us more thoughts and a better understanding of what needs to be done.

No one is under any illusion that these meetings will be anything but difficult but if we are to make robust decisions as to which option to pursue and we pursue those options, it is right and proper that we take the time to explain on a one to one basis why we must take the actions we are taking for the good of residents in Suffolk in the future. However the programme is quite grueling for the team as each meeting, between the travelling time to and from, the actual meeting and writing up the comments and thoughts it’s a day’s work for each and we have a team of three, myself and support staff.

I really hope that the effort we are putting in is rewarded by what people have to say and I am convinced we will get a lot out of the meetings; as we decide which is the best way forward for us to no longer be a provider of Residential Care homes but use those savings to help support the market place and be able to provide Residential Care homes places for more people in the future.

Below is the notes I have written to help me articulate the slides we will be presenting as I say we need to explain why we are doing what we are doing and allow the time and space for people to develop their own thoughts and help us make the right decisions.

 “Good Morning/Afternoon, my name is Colin Noble and I am the portfolio holder for Adult & Community Services at Suffolk County Council.

This means I have the political responsibility for adult social care, and all the many varied services we provide, services that includes this care home and how we can afford to provide support for everyone who needs the Council’s help now and in the future.

I would like to say a big thank you for coming along today to meet and discuss this with our team, I can appreciate what I have to say is not welcome news and will cause immense anxiety until we have all the answers you need, and clearly understand what is going to happen, so that you can plan ahead when those decision are made.

I am going to be speaking for about 10 minutes and present the facts, not what the papers have reported or you will have heard on the grape vine, the facts and stark choices before us, then I hope we can have a discussion about the options before you.

Consultation – A word or two about consultation and what it means to me: this is about explaining the reasons early about why we can no longer afford to own and run our care homes, even though you and everyone who lives in them as well as family members will no doubt think that I am wrong. This is about allowing me the opportunity to listen to your views and to answer your questions about the difficult choices that we need to make, well in advance of when I present the final paper to Cabinet for their consideration in March 2011 to consider the options for the future of our homes.

Caring – That is not to say I do recognise that is your or your loved ones home. I remember well my Great Aunt who was so fiercely independent but came to call her residential care home,……..home.  By going to each and every one of our homes, I hope you recognise the commitment that we are making officers, my fellow councilors and I consider what the best way to make the change away from running the homes.

Misconceptions and determinations – I also thought it would be useful to clear up a couple of misconceptions about what we are doing I have heard on my travels. Firstly, let me be clear: the decision to stop being a provider of Residential Care Homes is made, but the commitment and determination to continue to support people needing Residential Care home places is undiminished, as are our aspirations to respond and develop services for those who want to stay in their own homes for as long as is possible. The aspiration to stay in your own home is one I am sure we all share for our loved one and for ourselves.

But I recognise there are a significant number of people they need a supportive, professional environment with high care standards that only a good Residential care home can provide

In Suffolk today we the County Council are very much a minority players in the provision of Residential Care homes, we support 476 in our own homes and 2,300 in the private sector we buy 40% of the entire market for those that cannot afford it for themselves and so we have real on the ground knowledge of the good and excellent standards in our homes and the good and excellent standards enjoyed by the 2300 we support in the private sector.

For those who cannot afford it for themselves, the Council has a statutory responsibility and beyond that its one that Councilors and Officers believe it is it is one of the fundamental roles a Council is there for.

But it is equally clear and decided that we are no longer going to be providers of residential care ourselves and the presentation I am about to give explains why.

Comprehensive Spending Revue -I don’t know about you but having watched all the coverage about the comprehensive sending review I really do get confused as to what it all means. But I am not confused about what it means to Local Government in this regard. They have been extremely clear, they are cutting our funding by 28% over 4 years front loaded, which mean this coming year we have to make 10% savings across the council.

People say to me what does this mean? and I simply say life changing in term so far how the what the council is able to do. These cuts are not something open to negotiation: we will simply get less money;

I make no bones about talking about money because it costs you and me as tax payers a great deal of money to support the almost 3,000 people we do in care homes across Suffolk and the 14,000 people who receive other services.

We spend £166M pounds a year supporting people across Suffolk and we are going to have to make savings now and over the coming years just to deal with less money.

But beyond this immediate financial imperative, here in Suffolk we have another issue and so I thought I would start with:

Slide 2:

Giving you a sense of the longer terms issue that I and the team have to consider, living is such a beautiful part of the county and with the great medical advances we have seen and the fact that we are all healthier, means that there will be many more older people in Suffolk and many more older people who will need our help and Support.

The figures on this slide speak for themselves and show a 90% increase in the numbers of older people between now and 20 years time and 100% increase in the numbers of older people with dementia. 

I cannot see no evidence we will be resourced to meet that demand and so it is up to us if we are to provide services to ever increasing number of people then we simply cannot afford to lose money where we know we can save money.

If we do nothing, we will over a period of time deliver less and less services to more and more people.

Slide 3:

Here we can see the actual figures that have formed a part of our decision making process.

In our homes it costs us per week £637 to deliver a care bed and yet we buy off the private sector and by private sector I mean private care homes, Charities that run homes, registered Social Landlords and the not for profit social enterprises that run homes, and we know because we pay the bill that we by those beds on a scale form £306 to £504.

Now is does not take an accountant to see that this means we are overspending between £3M to £4M on our care homes.

A simple calculation shows that if we were to buy alternative places to the ones we provide in all of our care homes at the price we can buy the care for, we would have a significant saving to contribute to the frighteningly wide budget gap. 

So simply put in the provision of residential care beds we are currently losing money where we know we can save money.

At this point I must state my appreciation of the dedication of our staff working in our homes: it is because of their professionalism that the quality of care provided in our homes is judged by inspectors to be good or excellent. Unfortunately, our buildings’ layout and room sizes do not help: they are costly to maintain and run.  This will be an increasing problem as residential care homes provide more places for people with dementia and complex physical needs.

Slide 4:

Rooms are on average twice the size of ours with private en-suite facilities to support the dignity and privacy of people living in homes are something that we will all increasingly expect but we cannot offer these in some of our homes.

They increased use of personal Budget swill also effect the decision that people make.

All of this means that our care homes will fall behind in comparison in the standard of accommodation the independent sector can provide, they may be great today but we simply so not have the money we will need to invest in the future.

How much do we need over the next ?? years Peter?

And do we have that money? – No we do not but the private sector does and people will increasingly vote with there feet.

Slide 5:

So here I want to move from the theory to the actual, here is an example of a new private Care home being build at Balham as we speak, and the people who are building this one, run another couple in Suffolk and are very active members of the Suffolk Association of Independent care providers which we work very closely with.

Its an example of the independent sector investing in a new care home for people with dementia.  It will provide an environment which is comfortable, safe and affordable for people with dementia.

Slide 6:

Here is an example of a brand new very sheltered housing scheme where people can buy or rent an apartment with care on site.

These are examples of standards that we will all increasingly demand.

What are the options for our care homes? The options we are considering must reduce our costs.  They must deliver quality services and they must be realistic.

 Slide 7, Option 1:

This option would mean that your home would close, but I must stress that this would not be straight away.  We would spend time working with you and your family and make sure that you had the necessary social work time and support to help you find an alternative home to meet your preferences.  This might include help to attend open days in other homes so that you could meet the other residents and see what it would be like living there.

Slide 8, Option 2:

This option would mean that another organisation would take over the running of your home and employ the staff who care for you as well as look after the building.

You could choose to stay in your home, if this was to happen, but the new organisation would be asked to modernise the home and make it more efficient.

Slide 9, Option 3:

This option would mean that some homes would close and be sold, which would provide us with money to help pay for changes.  The rest of the homes would be transferred to another provider so that they could be re-developed.

With this option, we would be able to influence the new services.  These could include new, larger and more efficient homes for people with dementia which would be more affordable.

We have named some homes, but these homes might not necessarily be the ones that would close in this option and  decisions about this would depend on conversations with the market.

The new provider would be required to develop new homes in the areas of most need.

Slide 10, Option 3 (continued):

If your home was to close under this option, it would not close immediately but, again, we would spend time working with you and your family and make sure that you had the necessary social work time and support to help you find an alternative

home to meet your preferences.

Slide 11, Your Alternative Options:

I want to consider any other options you can suggest for the future of our homes, other than the ones I have spoken about. These might include other ways in which the home could be run or developed and the type of services it could provide.

As I have explained, all options must reduce costs as well as deliver quality services and they must be realistic.

Slide 12:

I will end this short presentation by saying that your views are very important, if they were not and this was a box ticking exercise, it would be precisely that and we would not be here today. This is why we have arranged to come here today and am going to all 16 of our homes to listen to your comments and to answer your questions.

In closing my bit I must emphasis that the decision to continue to support people needing Residential Care home places is undiminished, as are our aspirations to help people who want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible do so.

We recognise that for a significant number of people in our neighbourhoods need a supportive, professional environment with high standards of care that only a good Residential care home can provide.

And as I said at the start, for those who cannot afford it for themselves; not only does the Council has a statutory responsibility, its one we welcome as an important part of our role to support people and we will continue to do so.

As we go thought this morning / afternoon we will be taking notes of what is said and these will be published on our web site where you can see what was said here today and importantly what is being said in our other homes, At the end of out time here today Peter Tempest will sum up the threats of our discussions and we’ll be here at the end if you did not get the chance to ask your question, you are most welcome to my business card to contact me personally and if you think of other things later the consultation is open until on the 24th January.

Thank you for listening to me and who would like to ask the first question?”

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Kerry Buist on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

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