Care home closures: Your reaction to council decision to shut them
CareGate Action Group member Mrs Michelle Bailey presented a statement to the Extraordinary Meeting held at a packed Council Chamber on June 13, describing in detail the reasons why over 24,000 Doncaster people have signed a petition in opposition to the proposed closures of the Council-run care homes. She reminded Mayor Ros Jones of her election pledge to protect the most vulnerable people of Doncaster, and how this cannot be reconciled with closing their homes. In the ensuing debate, a clear mantra emerged during the responses of the Labour councillors - that the closures can be justified in the name of ‘modernisation’. Essentially, ‘modernisation’ was presented as a system whereby care can be improved by ‘keeping people in their homes longer’ and ‘providing them with choice’. They then proceeded to demonstrate their disturbing lack of knowledge surrounding the issues of modernisation in relation to dementia sufferers with a series of statements that were often ill-judged and even farcical. Councillors spoke of the ‘need to modernise’, yet failed to explain why successive Labour councils in Doncaster have shown so little willingness to undertake this modernisation programme within their care homes in previous years when there were no austerity measures. Shamefully, it never happened. So if the council can now conveniently state that their current care homes are ‘not fit for future purpose’ and use this as an excuse for closure, then surely it is council itself that has precipitated this state of affairs by chronic under-investment over recent years. ‘Modernisation’ has simply become a buzzword to hide behind, because it suggests ‘progress’ and ‘improvement’. Yet it does not stand up to close scrutiny. If modernisation is to mean anything, it should mean an improvement in care. And that means, at its most fundamental level, care delivered by well-qualified, well-trained, well-motivated and well-paid people who enter the profession because they care, and want to bring a level of quality and productiveness to the lives of the elderly people in their charge. Caregate Action Group is appalled and disturbed that councillors voting on this critical issue appear so utterly lacking in detailed, up-to-date and relevant knowledge of care for the elderly, and in particular for elderly people with dementia. We will never accept the type of ‘modernisation’ being promoted by the council. It is a notion based on privatisation, the principle of ‘profit before care’, and a denial of responsibility. In terms of improving care, it is a myth. CareGate Action Group is backed by a massive and still-growing voice of 24,000 Doncaster people, as represented through our petition by Michelle Bailey, and we will not be silenced. Doncaster Council take heed.
David Morgan, On behalf of CareGate Action Group
A viable alternative
Let’s now be under no illusions that the council are now going to effectively privatise Doncaster care homes by looking for “sympathetic buyers”. I hear from councillors that there is a over-capacity in care homes and that they are unviable so they have no choice because of Conservative cuts to the budget; they’ve got to make tough decisions. If this is the case who is going to buy them? There is a viable alternative to closing council care homes in Doncaster; it will take effort and I beg the council to fully look into it. It goes like this: Support care home staff in setting up a Doncaster Care Trust like DCLT (for Doncaster leisure centres); rent the care homes on long term ‘Peppercorn Rent’ to the trust; pay the staff the redundancy they’re entitled to. This will enable the Trust, and hence the staff themselves, to make changes to their own contracts/work hours/pay to streamline and reform the care homes across the board. A pay cut should be considered with a maximum top salary cap to ensure higher management don’t take the cream. With the care homes free from council red tape and bureaucracy the care homes will become viable, and when they do, the profit should be paid back to the staff in bonuses. I firmly believe if the restructure was done right, that these bonuses would more then cover a 20 per cent pay cut. To get the trust up and running, Doncaster Council could lend the new trust money; it has shown it can when it wants to, like lending DCLT millions for Adwick Leisure Centre. I also want to draw attention to the fact that despite the mayor saying “like for like“ places will be found for council care residents, this will not be possible. Council care residents are used to receiving outstanding care, with well-trained, experienced care staff that in some cases have a lifetime of experience in the care industry. I’ve worked in a private care home and I can tell you that they pay the minimum wage and have a high turn over of poorly trained staff that are stretched to the brink. To top it off, a lot of zero hour contracts float about in the sector. Ex-council care home residents will not receive the same care as they do now, and to many it will be distressing, and could lead to a demise in their health and wellbeing. To the Labour councillors, you are effectively privatising elderly care in Doncaster; you are not standing up for those who are most vulnerable in society and your actions will cause harm and distress. I hope Labour loses its damaging monopoly over Doncaster. There are alternatives to closure...
Ryan Morling, Scawthorpe Resident
No one has listened
On June 22, the Mayor made a public statement about cuts and care home closures in Doncaster. In it she said that if closures are needed former residents will still get the care that they need, no one will be made homeless and no-one will be forced to move unless appropriate accommodation is available. It is kind of the mayor to make these assurances, but these matters were never in doubt, nor were they the issue. The issue is – are the council prepared to move elderly and vulnerable people from their homes against their, and their family’s, wishes? It sounds to us as if that is exactly what they are prepared to do if no-one else steps in to run the homes. Mrs Jones says that she, and Labour, talk to people and listen. We don’t think that they have done either of these things. The mayor suggests that the council has to save up to £2m by shedding responsibility for running council care homes; that there is nothing else in the council’s budget that can be cut to meet this saving, and that there is no alternative to her plan. But is she wrong? The Localism Act says that the total annual sum of council tax the council charges should not exceed two per cent more than the previous year. This is not a binding Government cap, so if the council wants to raise the charge by more than two per cent, for example to generate the money needed to keep its council run care homes open, it can do so - but only if Doncaster residents vote for the increase in a local referendum. According to the last census there are in excess of 126,000 dwellings in Doncaster. We estimate that to raise an extra £2m, and be able to leave our vulnerable elderly folk in peace, it would cost each local household under £16 a year or £0.31 a week. We like referenda, and we also know how very concerned local people are. Wouldn’t asking everyone in Doncaster whether they would support this proposal be a good start to a listening exercise? Why not ask your councillor what he or she thinks?
Mick Andrews, Thorne Road, Doncaster
They should be ashamed
After sitting for four hours in the Labour cabinet meeting on June 25, and listening to the rehearsed questions from the cabinet members to Pat Higgs, we were told that she had been approached by a charitable organisation to take over the running of our care homes. Why did you not tell us this at the start of the meeting, then our questions would have been so different? If Mayor Ros Jones cannot keep to her manifesto how can we believe Pat Higgs? 24,000-plus Doncaster residents signed our petition not to close our care homes and SEC. centres but the decision was made by what we think was a whipped cabinet and they should all be ashamed of themselves.
Mr O Young, Doncaster
They refuse to listen
At last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting (which started at 10am), five CareGate group members and myself spoke against the closure of seven council residential homes (there had previously been a four and a quarter hour overview andscrutiny committee two days earlier.
At about 12.45pm, the chief executive told thecabinet meeting that last week, a charity organisation had contacted the council to talk about taking over some of the seven homes.
The members of the public were not informed that this was taking place until after seven hours of debate, yet the cabinet knew all about it.
It gets worse.
The announcement came not long after I spoke against the closures.
None of the CareGate speakers or myself were allowed to speak against this unknown charity potentially taking over some of the homes.
I had told the Cabinet earlier that this was a question of right or wrong and it was wrong to ignore a 27,000-plus strong petition from Doncaster people (the same applies to ex-Mayor Peter Davies when he had ignored the 15,000-plus Save Doncaster Libraries petition).
Why doesn’t the cabinet now recommend to the full council that the petitions bit in the constitution now be deleted?
I say this because even if Doncaster people submut a 10,000-plus petition it will no doubt be thrown in the rubbish bin if it is an austerity/cuts issue.
The CareGate group are carrying on fighting the closures and Doncaster people should back them to the hilt.
I am now back joining others protesting about the libraries’ redundancies and the unbelievable problems of keeping Cantley Library in its present location.
Doug Wright, On behalf of Doncaster People’s Assembly
What’s next to go?
At last week’s cabinet meeting, it goes to show how politicians are.
Just over a year ago, Doncaster welcomed the Labour party elected mayor.
I, as well as thousands of other voters, read her manifesto and readily gave her our votes.
Well what a disaster that has turned out to be.
What next will she and the cabinet henchmen get rid of?
Maybe the future holds no public services run by the council because there isn’t very much left.
If we need to save millions , then let’s rid ourselves of the overbearing burden of the upper tier management; because this is the problem.
These are people that are in overpaid and over-rated positions.
And I think many of them are without a clue of how to run a booze-up in a brewery.
These are the same people who are advising the mayor and her puppets on what services to eradicate and which employees (blue collar) to rid themselves of, and they themselves the councillors, all 64 of them, being dummies, are no wiser of what’s happening around them.
And, just to finish, where are the voices of the MPs? Not a word to be heard on the homes closures but we see plenty of photo opportunities of which 99 per cent of people don’t even care about.
M Herbert, Doncaster Road, Conisbrough
Failed by DMBC
Doncaster MBC is failing to serve people of all ages due to poor management and political incompetence through having not organized a cabinet made up of councillors from each political party sitting in the council.
I believe it’s one of the reasons why poor management by Doncaster MBC has meant council homes cost more to run due to their homes having to buy from the council appointed suppliers who charge top rate for everything ie a loaf of bread from the council provider costs almost twice that from a local supermarket. The council would have saved a lot of money if their homes were allowed to use local supermarkets as suppliers.
I believe the proposal to close the homes was first put forward in October by the elected Labour mayor, Ros Jones.
The council claims it costs about £420 per week to purchase beds from the independent sector, while a council bed costs £620 a week; the reason they cost much is the council’s own mis-management.
I may add that moving elderly residents often causes them to suffer as a result of being moved from pillar to post; tragically some die as a result of being moved from what had become their home, and staff that became part of their family.
Eddie Storey, Huntington Street, Bentley
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