Derbyshire County Council’s (DCC) Cabinet member for Adult Care Natalie Hoy has struck out at claims she broke a promise made in May 2020 that ‘no care homes will close, without having a new one to replace it’, following the announcement this week that seven facilities will be shut down regardless of the outcome of a public consultation.
In June 2020, the Conservative group released a pledge making a similar claim, however at the time the Labour group said this was a political move to defer any decision until after the May 2021 election.
Councillor Hoy said: “We have been clear throughout that no home would close without a suitable local alternative, and we have absolutely honoured that.
“We have ensured that there are good, local homes for residents to move to and we have committed to paying top up fees and supporting any extra travel requirements for visitors.”
A DCC report into the matter states there are currently 65 residents living in the seven homes earmarked for closure and the estimated cost of relocating them to independent sector facilities is £2.035m versus the council’s estimated £31m refurbishment costs.
Coun Hoy denied accusations that the administration purposefully ran the homes down in a bid to justify their closure.
She said: “Derbyshire County Council’s care homes have been in place for decades, under various political administrations with Labour in control of Derbyshire County Council for over thirty years, this is a long-term legacy issue that Labour did not address, that we are addressing.”
The Derbyshire Conservatives 2021 manifesto stated that the group would: “Build on our innovative £30m Care Programme to provide new modern care homes and care at home packages for the county’s older people – to replace Labour’s legacy of crumbling care homes.”
The party claims however that research has shown fewer older people want to stay in care homes.
Coun Hoy stated: “It is very clear from the work that we have done with residents across Derbyshire that people do not want to move into residential care homes and want to be supported in their own homes for as long as possible, and that the number of people coming into residential care has been consistently falling.
“We want to invest in support that meets those aspirations and is fit for how people want to live, now and in the future.
“We also need to ensure that we are using public money in the best and most responsible way.
“The existing homes are not fit for purpose, even with investment, and would not meet the standards we would want for ourselves or our own families.”
It is not only residents and families affected by the closures, with up to 204 staff (132 full-equivalent roles) at risk of redundancy.
Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, stated: “They have broken the promise they made before the last election when they stated that no home would be closed unless there is a new care home to replace it.
“Labour feared at the time that the Tories were only shelving the plans for the election and would revive the closure plans when they were safely ensconced behind their desks at County Hall again.
“This is not just a slap in the face for staff at the home, residents, their families, it is a slap in the face for voters.”
Applications for voluntary redundancies among care home staff will be accepted until August 5, followed by the start of compulsory redundancy notices on September 5.
DCC will commence a consultation with staff affected by the decision on May 16.