Community care 'to put homes out of business'

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The Independent Online
Private care homes will be driven out of business by the switch to the new-style community care, social services directors warned yesterday.

Fewer homes will be needed as more people are cared for in their own homes, according to Denise Platt, President of the Association of Directors of Social Services. Her comments came as the directors' survey of the first year of community care showed that a fifth of those who would otherwise have gone into residential care are now being cared for in their own homes.

'One of the objectives of the policy was that more people should be able to be cared for at home if that was their choice,' Ms Platt said. The result, however, will be that fewer places will be needed in private and voluntary care homes, whose numbers have been rising.

More than 200,000 people are cared for in 13,000 private and voluntary homes, supported by more than pounds 2bn a year of public money through income support and community care cash. The successful switch to more care at home, however, will mean that 'some people will not be in the residential care business at the end of next year or the year after,' Ms Platt said.

The survey showed the largest chunk of unmet need under the new arrangements is support for carers. 'Substantial investment' is now needed in carers' support services and respite care, the survey found, with less dramatic increases needed in meals on wheels and aids for daily living.

With local authorities forced to buy some such services from the private sector, Ms Platt said there were difficulties over how quickly the private sector could successfully and reliably expand into this area. 'Many people will be being cared for at home for a long time, and we need to be sure these independent domiciliary services are reliable and are going to stay in business' That, she said, was a 'critical issue'. At present many small independent domiciliary services were going out of business as those running them lacked experience.

The survey suggests that almost half a million elderly and others have been assessed in the first year of the new-style community care, about 80,000 going into residential or nursing homes.

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