Derbyshire Conservatives today underlined their commitment that no Derbyshire care home shall close without new provision to replace it.
Conservative controlled Derbyshire County Council have been keen to hear people’s views in its recent consultation on the seven care homes, which were placed under review after they were found to be unsound and unsafe due to the last Labour administration’s mismanagement and lack of investment spanning three decades.
In the time since the start of the consultation the world has changed, radically, with Covid-19 impacting on all parts of society and in particular the elderly and vulnerable in our communities and care homes. It is clear care homes will continue to be a central pillar of any strategy to deal with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
The news comes in the week that the Conservative-run County Council has opened a new care home in Belper, replacing the Ada Bellfield Care Home and temporarily renaming it the Florence Nightingale Home whilst it is used as a Covid-19 recovery home from early June. The move will allow further reassurance that those recovering from Covid-19 will be housed in a fit-for-purpose facility to minimise risks to residents of Derbyshire care homes.
Since the consultation on the refurbishment and potential closure of the homes was announced, under Conservative leadership the Council has spent an additional £1,240,000 making them safer for residents, by installing new alarms, fire doors and compartmentalisation and putting in additional staffing and other ongoing safety improvements and investments.
Commenting, the Leader of Derbyshire County Council, Cllr Barry Lewis said:
“We have carefully listened to our communities, especially where they echoed our concerns with regard to there being sufficient suitable care accommodation to meet residents’ needs, both now and in the future, in their localities. Another key point raised by Derbyshire residents was that no care home should close without there being provision to replace it. We also took on board people’s views with regard to locating future facilities where they are most needed, and where they can add value and enrich the offer to the locality. We wholeheartedly agree with respondents on these points and these remain our key pledges.
“Whilst we recognise that these care homes are neither fit for purpose for the long term and still present us with considerable challenges with regard to their longer-term safety and general soundness, we are committed to not closing any of them unless there is a new care home to replace it – in line with our original pledge to the people of Derbyshire.
“It is thanks to Derbyshire Conservatives prompt action and immediate investment that we can commit to this. By investing we have put in reverse the £2,800,000 worth of property maintenance cuts made by Labour that saw our care homes devasted by their neglect.
“The longer term future of care provision remains the key pledge of Derbyshire Conservatives, and we are working with staff to develop a new 5 year investment plan, working with the wider care sector, to ensure Derbyshire County Council can offer the best, modern, fit-for-purpose care facilities to ensure elderly Derbyshire residents and dementia sufferers have the provision they deserve and need, both now and into the future.”
To support today’s announcement, Derbyshire Conservatives have committed to a set of pledges, as follows:
1) Other than Hazelwood Care Home, which was earmarked for closure due to structural defects and inadequate modern provision in 2018 and will be replaced by a new modern care home nearby in 2021, no DCC-run care home will close in Derbyshire before the onset of 2022.
2) If a care home is to close after the start of 2022 there will be new alternative provision to replace it – in line with our long-standing commitment.
3) The creation of a new 5-year investment plan and new care home strategy will be developed and consulted upon by the end of 2020.
4) If it is the case that one or more of the affected care homes need to be closed then we pledge this will be temporary. Some of the affected homes have considerable issues (rewiring and asbestos) and we may need to ensure they remain safe for the duration. If this happens we will endeavour to reopen them as soon as we can.
Cllr Jean Wharmby, Cabinet Member for Adult Care said,
“I want to reassure residents and their families, that we’ll support their ambitions to remain in their homes and we are keen to get back on track to replace the crumbling and outdated homes that Labour allowed to decay and threaten lives.
“Had Labour continued with the £200 Million care home investment programme the Conservatives had put in place between 2009 and 2013 then all this need never have happened. It is their short-sightedness that has put us all through this.
“Following the structural issues identified at Hazelwood in Ilkeston in 2017, further surveys were conducted across the full range of the Council’s care homes. The results highlighted what can only be described as a total horror story of safety issues of such a serious nature that we were faced with a potentially swift raft of emergency closures. However, I am pleased to say we are in a somewhat better place and able to get back on track with what we originally intended - a £30 million investment programme in our care homes to ensure we have high quality care homes to meet Derbyshire’s needs.
“We never wanted to consult on the closure of these homes. It wasn’t our plan and we certainly didn’t want to cause needless anxiety. We were left with no choice after decades of Labour mismanagement and underinvestment but to commit to a consultation to deal with what could have been rapid emergency closures and replacements. We and the staff have worked hard to mitigate the issues we found and in the intervening time provide a semblance of stability.
“What surprised us was the actual state of decay Labour had left us with and they should hang their heads in shame, especially in their recent behaviour in claiming to be the champions of residents in the consultation. We will never let them forget how close to disaster they left Derbyshire care home residents – at times moments from emergency closures – or worse.
“However, in the intervening time, we have worked hard to find alternative solutions that would avoid the need for any closure and put us back on track with a programme of care home investment. We are not completely out of the woods yet but with a real programme of care home investment we are keen make sure we maintain our key pledges to the people of Derbyshire: to ensure we provide high quality care homes fit for the 21st century in a vibrant and sustainable mixed market economy.”