Concerns over care homes sale

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CONCERNS have been raised over the sale of council-run care homes to a new operator.

Suffolk County Council is preparing to reveal the identity of the provider, which will take on 16 homes, including 1,400 employees.

However, charity and union bosses have expressed fears over the future welfare and security of residents and staff.

Among the homes affected by the plans are Davers Court and Glastonbury Court, in Bury St Edmunds, and Ixworth Court, in Ixworth.

The new provider will take full ownership of the facilities as well as the authority’s eight wellbeing centres.

The authority received 23 expressions of interest for the homes following a near year- long selection process.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age UK Suffolk, stressed that standards must be maintained following the transfer.

She said: “I hope the council has put in place appropriate safeguards to ensure that the new provider can financially manage the homes on the fees they will receive from the council and that there is no chance that they will default and put the future care of these frailer older people at risk.

“We will all be monitoring what happens in these care homes very carefully.”

A spokeswoman for Unison feared staff faced ‘potentially poorer terms and conditions’ and residents would ‘no longer have the safety net of the council should their care not be upto standard’.

She said: “We are also concerned about the cost of bringing these services back in house if things go wrong.”

Nurse Julie Kilner, whose mother Margaret Turner lived at Davers Court until she passed away recently, said: “There are good homes that are privately run. I’m concerned that social services are stepping right out of any residential care.”

Cllr Colin Noble, portfolio holder for adult and community services, said there were ‘a number of safeguards’.

He said: “We’ve been through a year-long process where we sat down with all the different providers who were interested. They’ve been assessed on the standard and quality of care they deliver now in their other homes and plans for the future. The winner will be the one who has the best plans for investing in the future of Suffolk.”

When asked about the future for staff, he said: “We think the provider will want to retain them as the bedrock of how they build their business. We think the future for the staff is good.”

He added: “When we were meeting with families, residents and staff at the 16 homes, I made a promise I would go back to each of those homes and talk about the plans.

“That’s a promise I made and one I will keep.”

The identity of the provider will be announced at the council’s cabinet meeting on April 17.