Concessions on the cards, says minister

Health minister Jacqui Smith admitted that
there will be concessions in the final version of the national
minimum standards for care homes for younger adults, during a House
of Commons debate last week.

Smith said the limits on the numbers of
residents in homes and how they are grouped together will be
“modified accordingly”, while standards on shared toilets and
bathrooms will be looked at closely, including the possibility of
extending time limits for compliance with the standards.

“In other words, we are willing to reconsider
when people make a good case, but what still matters most is that
service users live in as homely and comfortable an environment as
possible,” said Smith.

The draft standards suggested that new homes
should accommodate up to 16 people split into two groups of eight.
Existing larger homes are expected to comply by 2007. The aim is to
organise establishments into friendlier environments.

But many of those who responded to the
Department of Health consultation said the numbers were too low,
particularly for homes working with young people who misuse
substances. Sometimes, treatment of such people depended on groups
of 10 or more residents living and working through their therapy

“The limits will rise, and there will be some
extra leeway for shorter term stays,” said Smith.

The draft standards also suggested one toilet
for each two residents and one bathroom for three people, in both
cases adjacent to bedrooms. Many people said the standards were too
high, according to Smith, who believed a sensible compromise could
be found.

Liberal Democrat MP for Northavon, Stephen
Webb, who secured the debate, said there were concerns that the
proposed standards may force smaller homes to close, because of the
need to make adaptations and alterations that they cannot afford,
such as providing more shared bathrooms and toilets.

He also called for flexibility in the
interpretation of the standards, where there were good reasons for
failing to comply. “There is a danger that in the laudable attempt
to raise standards, we are over-prescriptive,” he said. “The key
question is how much discretion or flexibility the [National Care
Standards Commission] inspectors will have?”

National Minimum Standards for Care
Homes for Younger Adults and Adult Placements
is available at:

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