A leading social care champion has hailed proposed changes to residential care as a ‘revolution’ in the way we look after older and vulnerable adults.
Mike Padgham said proposals to be outlined by former care minister Paul Burstow could radically transform the way care is provided in care and nursing homes in this country.
And he called for those proposals to be investigated by the Government and to be a catalyst for change in the sector.
In a speech Mr Burstow will say that NHS Trusts should sell surplus land next to hospitals to build enough care homes and supported living apartments to meet ever-increasing demand for them.
He will announce the findings of the Demos’ Commission on Residential Care, which suggests a wide range of actions to improve residential care and its image.
Broadly welcoming the proposals, Mr Padgham said: “This report and Mr Burstow’s words breathe new life into the residential care sector and help us all to start a fight back on its behalf.
“Residential care has seen its reputation damaged by well-publicised stories of poor care, which have completely overshadowed all the excellent, vital care that is delivered in care homes and must continue to be delivered in years to come.
“Clearly there is a lot in the report and we will need to look carefully at the detail, particularly on new tenancy agreements, which can be complex issues. But broadly speaking this is a great move forward.”
Mr Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire) said morale in homes was at an all-time low, due to poor publicity and politicians playing down the need for residential care.
“In this country we will always need the full range of care services, from extra care housing to day care, to care for people in their own homes and also, crucially, residential care for people who need the wonderful, round-the-clock care that they offer,” Mr Padgham added.
“The Demos Commission comes not a moment too soon and I pay tribute to those who have created it and to Mr Burstow for bringing it to the public arena.
“I very much hope that it will be seized upon by the Government, investigated and, with the right funding, be a catalyst for a revolution in the way we look upon residential care in this country.”
Around 450,000 people live in care homes in England and with a rapidly ageing population, that number is rising. It is feared that the country is unprepared for this care “time bomb”.
Less than 40% of land held by NHS trusts is currently being used for medical buildings, so more than 5,000 hectares could be used for care accommodation, easing the strain on NHS hospital beds. Around 30% of acute hospital beds are filled with people who could be looked after in a care home.
The Demos Commission’s final report calls for incentives like quicker planning decisions and reduced purchase prices to sell surplus land to providers who are willing to reserve a percentage of space for state-funded care, or contribute to local authority services.
It also calls for care facilities to be co-located with educational institutions or community centres such as nursery groups or libraries.
It calls for a separation of housing and care costs along with the introduction of individual tenancy rights to give people moving into care homes the same security and rights as those moving into supported housing or care villages.
The report also recommends carrying out 20-year projections on demand for care, dropping the term ‘residential care’, requiring the Care Quality Commission to inspect care commissioners as well as providers, introducing a ‘licence to practise’ to ensure training for care workers, ensuring those working in care homes are paid a living wage and greater transparency from care providers on feedback and complaints.
Mr Padgham particularly welcomed moves to inspect commissioners and the promise of a living wage for staff.
“It is only correct that those who buy care – the commissioners like local authorities, should be inspected in the same way that those who provide the care are, to ensure that care is being properly and fairly commissioned,” he added.
“At the same time, ensuring that we have the means to pay people working in care homes a proper living wage is extremely important if we are to create a sector full of properly-trained, highly-motivated and compassionate care workers to provide the care that older and vulnerable adults deserve.”
Commenting on Paul Burstow’s publication of today’s Demos report, Saga’s Paul Green said:
“Care for older people will key a key campaigning ground for the coming General Election. Anything that highlights the outstanding work that family carers provide is a good thing. Society needs to value and support family carers in practical ways and also recognise the need for respite for family carers to enable them to continue to care for their loved ones and in doing so save the taxpayer an estimated £119bn each year.”
Whilst Dr Richard Preece, medical director of Saga’s sister company Allied healthcare, the UK’s largest provider of domiciliary care welcomed Burstow’s contribution saying: “As a society we need to make paid care work a profession with proper standards for training. Recent research by populous of more than 9,000 over 50s shows that nine in ten people would want to receive care in their own homes if the need were to arise; so ensuring that care commissioners put quality first should continue to be a priority for any British Government so that people get the care they deserve in the home they love.