Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The end of the council care home

My big break in care management came as a result of care home closures. Having been in a junior role doing phone assessments I was seconded to cover a colleague who was in turn seconded to assess and arrange new placements for residents at two council run homes which were earmarked for closure. Initially it was for a six month period, but legal wrangling led to me providing cover for another three months before I finally left to study social policy.

The closures were fought against by the local rag and residents relatives, at one point a hot-shot lawyer who had fought another authority on the issue of care home closures appeared on the scene seeking to halt the process. I remember the colleague I replaced telling me that she felt all this was counter-intuiative as the authority was so keen to close the homes had been exceedingly generous in allocating funds for the residents who were to be moved.

The homes in question were typical of council residential homes built as part of a post-war council estate its homes and care homes founded same impulses of idealism and universality. One was well regarded, the other not so. In my dealings it seemed the issues were typical ones down to not having enough staff and there had been a spat the year before when the authority decided to bring in agency staff to avoid paying overtime breaking a tacit agreement that low pay would be compensated by opportunities to work long hours.

In any case the authority got its way and shut the homes. To the cynic it seemed the authority just didn't want the hassle of trying to run homes on a progressively tightening budget, far better to outsource this problem and any ramifications to the private sector. To my ultra cynical eye I felt that senior management were concerned about the escalating potential for a safeguarding case to crop up at a council run care home, something that would be much worse for them professionally than an equivalent one in a private-sector home.

Maybe this wasnt the case, the official line was that demand was declining (in the short term at least) and that the private sector had ample capacity, there was now simply no need for the homes they said. That they set up a new safeguarding team specifically to deal with institutional safeguarding cases suggested that their faith in the private sector was however, not absolute.

I wonder what their thoughts are this week?