BADACA is working closely with Unison, Unite, GMB, other campaigning groups and voluntary sector organisations to force the LibDem’s and/ or the new elected mayor to reverse their scandalous decision to close most of Bristol’s remaining public care homes and day-centres for the elderly and vulnerable.
Bristol City Council is determined to get care for the elderly and vulnerable on the cheap. In the last year the remaining council-run home care service has been privatised and grants to voluntary groups running services like lunch clubs and day centres have been slashed.
Now Bristol City Council has agreed plans to close 8 of its care homes – leaving 200 residents to find new homes. Seven council-run day centres will close. Services will be privatised. This will leave the elderly and vulnerable users of these services paying more for a sub-standard service while the council saves £4 million. 130 experienced, motivated care workers will lose their jobs.
All this at a time when forecasts show that there will be an increased need for care services as people live longer and need more help in their later years. The council’s own estimates suggest over 650 additional places will be needed in the next five years. Their plans accept a shortfall of almost 250 places in that time. The likelihood is that it will be much greater. The provision of ‘hubs’ in place of day centres will lead to an entirely inadequate service and increase social isolation for the people who have been using these centres and their families.
The council’s own surveys show there is a high level of public satisfaction with council provision of care services. Petitions submitted by BADACA and Unison to the recent Cabinet meeting showed large numbers of people in favour of retaining the council-run service. The Care Quality Commission says “in house care” is of better quality. The council should be expanding their services not handing them over to private providers.
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. The services will be handed over to companies like Southern Cross which are more interested in making profits than in caring for people. Further privatisation will increase the risk of the council tax payer having to pay out when providers give poor service, get into debt or leave the scene for more lucrative opportunities elsewhere.
Most private suppliers of care services have a very high turnover of poorly trained, badly paid and un-motivated staff. This means that the service users don’t get a continuous service, but a string of different care workers, leading to poor service and a lack of dignified care.
The council claim that these closures increase ‘choice’ and are part of ‘modernising’ the service, allowing people to stay longer in their own homes. But the ‘choice’ is from the limited options that there will be available. Anyone wanting to choose a properly funded council-run service, fully accountable to the people of Bristol have no choice.
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 and manage their own care from a personal budget. Especially at a time of increasing winter deaths and pensioner poverty.
The figures don’t add up. While costs to the user will inevitably increase under a privatised system, pensioners’ incomes are in decline. State pension increases don’t match rises in fuel and other prices; benefits are under attack; those lucky enough to have savings face very low interest rates.
We are fast becoming a nation of soup kitchens and food banks and no doubt many older people will be reduced to these, while the tax avoiders get off scot-free.
A society, which marginalises and impoverishes the elderly and vulnerable 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’ and ‘modernisation’ but the Government’s austerity policies. It is an attack on the concept of welfare 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 and wants councils to enforce the idea that private provision of services is ‘better’ than public provision. The plans by Bristol City Council are part of this. The time to take a stand is now – not after all the services have been closed and privatised. Once experienced workforces leave the council’s employment and buildings are sold there will be little chance of reviving these services.
For years the council has failed to invest in maintenance of its care homes and day centres. They now announce that they are out of date and have to be closed because they are too expensive to bring up to date. But it isn’t even clear that, overall, the new plans will save money. The council’s projected savings ignore redundancy costs, the cost of increased bed-blocking in the NHS, and the impact on the families and communities of those losing their jobs.
Care home residents, day-centre users, their families and staff in the services need to come together with community groups across the city to stop these closures and privatisation.
Come to the lobby of the council meeting at 5pm on Tuesday September 18th and tell councillors what the people of Bristol think of these plans!
NO CLOSURES – NO PRIVATISATIONS – NO TO ALL CUTS