Bristol’s Care Crisis
The Council’s latest proposals on social care are even more painful than expected. The Council plans to close 8 of its care homes – leaving 200 residents to find new homes. Seven day centres will close. Services will be privatised without any really serious safeguards or costings. This will leave users paying more for a sub-standard service while the council saves £4 million. 130 people will lose their jobs. Cuts of this order will spell misery for many.
The dire result of these proposals for service users, their families and the staff involved is compounded by the fundamentally undemocratic way in which the proposals are being pushed through. Cabinet will make the final decision with no opportunity for debate at a full council meeting.
Council reports stress that the changes are driven by demographic changes including predicted increases in numbers with dementia. However these changes take little, if any, account of the huge increase in winter deaths and the falling income of both poor and middle range pensioners.
There is a high level of public satisfaction with council provision. The Council Officers’ own Analyses of Residential Questionnaires submitted to Cabinet states that the majority of respondents (72%) preferred services to be delivered by the Council. This was the clear choice of all who completed the questionnaires. The petition submitted by BADACA has more signatures in favour of a council-run service than the level of support shown for any of the council’s ‘options’ during consultation. The Care Quality Commission favours “in house care” as being of better quality. The CQC have also said that the quality of care is more important than the state of the buildings. Old homes have been another justification for the cuts but how much does it cost to rejuvenate an old building? Comparatively little one would have thought.
Whilst it may be true that some prefer to be cared for at home, the old and vulnerable have many different needs,and few would prefer to live alone in a cold house, having to buy in care from a personal budget. The burden of responsibility of managing staff and complexities of administration that this would entail would be too much for many people.
In Bristol many good care staff have been pushed out of their jobs whilst the private care providers recruit at railway stations and put flyers through doors. They are desperate for staff. No mention is made of pay and training. Trades unions are discouraged and turnover is high.
The cosy talk of “social enterprises” and “not for profit” provision is a fig leaf to hide the inevitable introduction of large private care providers. Their concern will be to make profits.
As recent investigations have shown, no or poor training and low pay is the norm in many of these private companies, together with resident abuse and lack of user stimulation. Can these outfits be trusted to care for our elderly? Even the good ones are having problems; Margaret Hodge chair of a Parliamentary Public Accounts recently commented;, “The private sector in the past was able to make their business pay because in part they were subsidised by the local authorities but that era has now come to an end as the Government reduces council support. The result is that some of the biggest players in the care business are on the verge of bankruptcy.”
This is what happened to Southern Cross. Bristol recently had to pay £6000 compensation to a resident of a BUPA Care home after she was found by relatives in a soiled bed. Further privatisation will increase the risk of the council tax payer having to pay out when other providers give poor service, get into debt or leave the scene for more lucrative opportunities elsewhere.
The decline of pensioner income.
The figures don’t add up. While costs to the user will inevitably increase under a privatised system, pensioners’ incomes decline. Pensioners are having to cope with a winter fuel payment cut in the face of increased heating bills, the withdrawal of the age related tax code the decline of their savings and the change in inflation indexation from RPI to CPI. The majority who don’t own property are likely to be adversely affected by the Government’s new cap on housing benefit.
Several rounds of “quantitative easing” by the Bank Of England, and probably more to come, have helped create very low interest rates. So, those lucky enough to have savings also face reducing income from those savings.
We are fast becoming a nation of soup kitchens and food banks and no doubt many older people will have recourse to these, whilst the tax avoiders get off scot-free.
A society, which marginalises and impoverishes the elderly becomes less civilised, Unfortunately the council’s plans for Care do nothing to halt this cultural decline.
The main driving force for these cuts is not ‘choice’ but the Government policy of balancing the books through implementing a policy of austerity. It is an ideological attack on the concept of welfare and provision as of right, to be replaced by charity and market forces. It is part of the attempt to move the cost of social care on to users and away from a ‘cradle to grave’ welfare system which we have all contributed to for the last 70 years.
The government tells us austerity will continue until 2020. The time for the council to take a stand against this is now – not after all the services have been closed and privatised. Once skilled workforces leave the council’s employment and buildings are sold there will be little chance of reviving these services.
These proposals must be rejected. In place of austerity the council’s priority in the short term must be to stop the cuts using its £60m reserves, to employ more front line care staff and to renew and update the “in house” provision of Care Homes and Day Centres.
The Council should join with the Unions and communities to campaign for a National Social Care Service based on need and the ability to pay.
NO CLOSURES – NO PRIVATISATIONS – NO TO ALL CUTS