The future of Surrey County Council’s in-house care homes – our response

Update: The strength of opposition has clearly surprised the Council and they have extended the formal consultation by six weeks until 31st January.   Please do respond – and feel free to use any of our submission below.  

A mass lobby/protest is planned for the Surrey County Council Cabinet meeting at County Hall in Kingston on 10 March at 12.30pm (the Cabinet meeting starts at 2pm).  Please do come if you can.  More details on www.sosis.org.uk

Surrey County Council’s consultation regarding the future of its ‘in-house’ care homes closes tomorrow. Reigate & Banstead Greens have been drafting a response, which we have reproduced below, in case any of it inspires you in drafting your own. Please feel free to use any of our text, but please do respond to the consultation- documents to be found here: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/adult-social-care/getting-involved-in-adult-social-care-plans-and-services/consultation-launched-into-future-of-councils-older-peoples-homes

Please also sign and share this petition against the closure of our last 6 publicly-run care homes, which provide vital residential care, respite & day care services, cancer care, and care for young people with challenging needs: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/SaveCareHomes/


Future of Surrey County Council In-House Homes – Response from Reigate & Banstead Green Party

In response to your consultation regarding the future of Surrey County Council’s in-house care homes, Reigate & Banstead Green Party should like to emphasise the following:

Introduction

We believe that everyone in our society, where they become unable to perform daily tasks for themselves, should receive the highest possible standards of care. Where possible, this care should be provided to people in
their own homes, but where this is not feasible, nursing or residential care should be provided as appropriate as a public service.

Public service provision- maintaining quality care

It is our duty as society, as represented locally by Surrey County Council as a public body, to ensure that people receive the care that they need. Whilst there are private care homes in the area- we include in this the 24 residential homes owned by Surrey County Council for which responsibility has already been relinquished to Anchor Trust and Care UK under separate contracts- the removal of the last publically-provided, and therefore directly publically-accountable, care homes would represent a significant backwards step.

Responsiveness to local needs has arguably already been curtailed by locking in service provision to long-term contracts with private providers. Closure of the remaining six care homes will reduce the flexibility of Surrey County Council to respond to the changing needs of local residents in the future without incurring additional cost. This contradicts the consultation documentation’s emphasis on changing needs- also despite the obvious continual need for the services being provided at these care homes- as a reason for the Council’s closure proposal.

Residents of the care homes, their relatives, the CQC, and Surrey County Councillors themselves have emphasised the high quality of care in the six homes in question. This high-quality care should be continued for current and future care home residents.

Where spaces have been allocated at the homes for day and respite care, these are clearly vital services and it is not clear how the Council intends to ensure their continuation, were it to proceed in spite of service users and local residents (as potential service users) and close the homes.

We are concerned that closure of these care homes directly reduces essential service provision, and that its replacement elsewhere could reduce quality of care, local availability, and the ability of care provision to reflect the range of care needs both now and in the future. Such a move would not be in the interests of current care home residents, possible future care home residents from across Surrey (who seem to have been omitted from the list of ‘stakeholders’ to consult on this issue), residents’ families, friends or the 450 care home staff.

Recent assertions have been made by Conservative Councillor Le Gal that she would not wish her mother to go to any of the 6 care homes in question (Get Surrey, online, 22/10/14 http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/care-homes-threatened-closure-after-7977781). If Surrey County Councillors are concerned, despite the opinions expressed by the CQC at previous visits, and the views of the families of existing residents, that the homes would fail the CQC’s ‘Mum test’, this indicates a failure on the part of the Council with regards to its duty of care in maintaining them. This does not provide a reason to close the homes, however, but to focus on refurbishing them, bringing the buildings up to the standard we would all wish for our relatives in their later years, and to match the standard of care provided by the care home staff. We would therefore recommend the following:

Improvement of services

• The option of maintaining this vital service and further improving the high quality care provided in these homes through refurbishing and retaining operation of the current homes- extending the buildings where possible- should be properly considered as the option which best meets the interests of current and future service-users.
• Refurbishment could begin with the ‘permanently closed’ units- referred to in Annex 3 of the consultation documentation- found in 4 of the 6 care homes. The lack of investment in these facilities in the past should not be a basis for them to be permanently closed now. It is difficult to envision a circumstance in which these areas could not possibly be repurposed for uses which are of benefit to residents.
• The Council’s consultation documents also state that the proportional occupancy across the 6 homes is 54%, yet the cabinet report included (Pg. 6, point 9) states that permanent admissions to the homes have been stopped because staff have difficulties in supporting people with dignity, ‘within the constraints of the accommodation’. If this is indeed the case, this implies that the care homes could be running at full occupancy in terms of current usable space. It is therefore unclear if appropriate advertising of available spaces in newly-refurbished homes could not resolve any future issues with ‘spare’ capacity which may arise.
• The above disparity makes it unclear if any lack of occupancy relates in any way to the demand for the services provided by the care homes: it seems that Surrey County Council still requires more capacity for both residential and nursing care. The consultation refers to the changing care needs of local residents, but it does not evidence a reduced overall need for the residential care of Surrey’s increasing number of older people. To ensure that quality care is provided for all we suggest the consultation be widened to reconsider the overall residential care strategy, as follows: (1) Proposals to refurbish these six homes to continue and expand high-quality care within them; (2) Review whether, when Anchor Trust’s contract expires in 2018, the 17 care homes they currently run should be brought back ‘in-house’ (and the remaining 7 in 2027 when Care UK’s contract ends, if not before), with a view to enabling Surrey County Council to more directly and quickly respond to changing local care needs; (3) Review whether and how all staff employed in care homes in Surrey receive the Living Wage, and are employed in accordance with the Ethical Care Charter- i.e. not on zero hours contracts.

This will give Surrey County Council the opportunity to review the level and types of overall care need, whether needs are being met locally, how existing sites can be expanded to meet future challenges (such as also incorporating nursing care provision – though, obviously, not at the expense of existing residents), and to potentially create more secure jobs, paying the Living Wage and with guaranteed hours, suited to the employees, in the process.

Summary

The Council’s current preference for closing their last six ‘in-house’ care homes stands to leave current employees, residents, users of day services and respite care, and all potential service users high and dry, and signals the final relinquishing of a social responsibility that Surrey County Council should be striving to fulfil directly. There is a danger the resulting “lease it and leave it to others” approach does not provide the best quality of care outcomes – as one size does not fit all; the decreased levels of public scrutiny and accountability associated with private care provision means that Surrey County Council’s ‘in-house’ provision can better guarantee continued high-quality care.

The Council’s primary concern should be with service improvement, not reduction, and they should therefore refurbish these care homes. By improving the standard of the residents’ living environments, as well as employment standards of carers, Surrey should be setting new standards for both the care received by current residents and users of other care services, and the development of a much more robust plan for future local care needs.

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2 Comments

  1. Ann James
    Posted February 9, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s not clear when the lobby/protest is. This page says 24th February in the main body, and 10th March under Upcoming Events. Clicking on that link also shows 10th March, but lower down it says 7th. SCC’s own Committee pages show Cabinet meetings on 24th February and 24th March. The SOSIS website has 10th March. Please could someone clarify? Thank you.

  2. admin
    Posted February 12, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Hello Ann

    Sorry about the confusion. Things have changed a bit since we posted this article. Surrey County Council have extended the consultation period, and therefore the date on which the Cabinet would consider the outcome. A report will be published on 27 February and the final decision will be made at a Special Surrey County Council Cabinet meeting on 10 March 2015. So the mass lobby will be on 10 March to coincide with this meeting. Details here: http://www.sosis.org.uk/sosis-events.html.

One Trackback

  • By Disability Rights and Social Care | Nicola Dodgson on February 18, 2015 at 12:14 am

    […] closed (the response I helped to draft on behalf of Reigate and Banstead Green Party can be seen here ), the petition against closure can be signed until the 20th February.  A mass lobby is planned […]

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