Council set to sell care homes to save £1.9m

Doncaster Council is set to close all seven of its residential care homes in a bid to save £1.9m.

Albert Lemasurier of Doncaster hands over a petition protesting at the closure of care homes.
Albert Lemasurier of Doncaster hands over a petition protesting at the closure of care homes.

Privately-run care will have to be found for 132 elderly residents and more than 300 staff will face redundancy if the plans are backed by the council’s cabinet next week.

A three-month consultation, launched in January, showed people were “overwhelmingly” against the plans, raising fears over quality of care in the private sector and the effects of a move on the health of residents. More than 20,000 people signed petitions against the closure.

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The council, which needs to save £109m over the next three years, says closing the homes is in line with its plans to modernise adult social care, with more people being supported to stay in their homes for longer, and residential care being provided independently in a modern setting.

A council report recommends closing the seven homes, which currently have 86 empty beds.

The Council’s assistant director, adult social care, Pat Higgs, who wrote the report, said: “It is a very difficult time for the families involved and the for the staff, as potentially the decision puts some staff at risk of redundancy.

“But we have to look at the needs of all the vulnerable individuals in Doncaster that we are responsible for.”

Mr Higgs said the existing homes were “not fit for the future”, with small bedrooms unsuitable for people who required more care. Selling the buildings will put a further £2.4m into the council’s capital budget.

The council said there is capacity in the borough’s private care homes to accommodate all the residents - at £200 per week, per person, less than the council provision.

Residents will be given support to chose where they want to move to, and fees will be kept the same. Timing of the closures will be dependant on when homes are vacated.

Austerity campaigners Doncaster People’s Assembly held protests outside each of the care homes earlier this year.

John Westmoreland, of the assembly, said: “There is a sense of deep foreboding about what the future holds for the residents.

“These places are their homes, they are familiar with buildings, the treatment they get and the people who provide it.”

A separate campaign group has threatened to apply for a judicial review if the proposal is passed, claiming the plan is “unlawful”.

Yogi Amin, partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said if passed, the decision would be challenged in the courts.

Trade union Unison said it was “very concerned” about the plan.

Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s head of local government for Yorkshire and Humber, said Doncaster Council was “totally misguided” that the private market could provide for the future needs of an ageing population, and this had been demonstrated by the on-going strike action by Doncaster workers at Care UK, who face a 50 per cent pay cut, and the collapse of Southern Cross in 2011.