Council looks to private sector for revolution in care for elderly

A REVOLUTION in care of the elderly to cope with soaring demand for services in North Yorkshire is due to see the cash-starved council increasingly rely on the private sector to provide multi-million pound facilities.

North Yorkshire County Council is planning to embark on a £1m procurement process to sign up a specialist care provider to build as many as 30 new ExtraCare developments, which provide a pioneering approach to residential care.

The council has already invested nearly £12m in creating a network of 14 ExtraCare facilities, which provide 24-hour care while residents retain their independence living in their own properties on the sites.

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Another five developments are planned in the current programme, although a new wave of ExtraCare facilities will have to be introduced to cope with the increasing number of pensioners in the county.

It is predicted that the over-65s will represent a quarter of North Yorkshire’s population by 2020, when about 25 per cent of pensioners aged over 80 will have a “significant degree” of dementia.

The council’s executive member for adult services, Coun Clare Wood, claimed that the decision to expand the network of ExtraCare sites represented the biggest shift in services for more than a generation since existing residential care homes were built in the 1960s.

She said: “North Yorkshire is leading the way nationally with ExtraCare facilities and we have identified that there is a need for up to 30 more sites. We have spoken to the public about the future of care services and this is exactly what people are telling us they want.

“It is an extremely exciting time and this will bring economic benefits running into hundreds of millions of pounds into the county. It will provide massive opportunities for the construction industry as well as bringing in more jobs to help counter the economic downturn.”

The council’s executive will meet on Tuesday next week when senior councillors are due to approve plans for £50,000 in funding to be used for initial legal advice about the proposed contract for the new ExtraCare facilities.

The overall procurement process is expected, however, to cost in the region of £1m before it is hoped a contract will be signed in January 2013.

The county council is battling to slash expenditure to counter cuts in Government funding and is faced with having to make £69m in savings across all its services. However, Coun Wood maintained that the initial outlay of the procurement process is due to be recouped through the introduction of more ExtraCare facilities which will ease pressure on the council.

The existing 14 ExtraCare schemes across the county currently involve seven partner organisations, and provide 606 accommodation units. The current programme is due to see a facility officially opened in Tadcaster tomorrow, while residents are due to begin moving into a new development in Richmond at the start of next week.

Planning permission was granted last month for a scheme in Settle after the original proposals were scaled back, and proposals are being finalised for two developments which are earmarked for Harrogate.

Another ExtraCare facility is due to be created at Middle Deepdale in Scarborough under the existing programme. The county council is working in partnership with other local authorities as well as housing associations which own and manage the ExtraCare schemes and grant tenancies or leases to residents. In the past, some schemes have also included the Homes and Communities Agency as well as the Department of Health.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in July that York Council is conducting a review of its nine residential care homes amid predictions that the number of people aged over 65 in they city is expected to increase by nearly a quarter in less than a decade.