About-turn on minimum care home standards sparks anger on all sides

Charity Help the Aged has criticised the government’s U-turn over
the national minimum standards on space in care homes for older

Under the amended draft standards, care homes open before 1 April
2002 will be exempt from meeting some environmental standards on
space, baths, doorways, and single rooms.

These homes will have to set out in their prospectus and users’
guide the details of the individual accommodation and communal
space. The National Care Standards Commission will state in its
inspection reports how far homes comply with the standards.

New-build homes and first-time registrations will still have to
meet the environmental standards.

Help the Aged believes that, although the standards are blamed for
the closure of many homes, the important issue is “less about room
sizes and more to do with inadequate government funding for
residential care”.

Policy officer Gail Elkington said the charity would respond in
detail before the consultation process ended on 8 November and
would speak to ministers and civil servants.

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes
Association, was “surprised” at the amended standards but welcomed
the flexible approach.

She said: “One thing in the back of my mind is all the homes that
have closed in the past three years because they were not going to
meet the standards.

“What the government is doing will let us concentrate on quality

Care homes for younger adults that existed before 1 April are also
to be exempt from some environmental standards under proposed
amendments to the standards for care homes for younger adults.

James Churchill, chief executive of the Association for Residential
Care, which represents providers of care for younger adults with
learning difficulties, said the amendments could result in a
two-tier market.

He said that older homes which have not complied with the superior
standards would not have the financial overheads of new homes and
would be able to charge lower fees, which cash-strapped local
authorities were more likely to choose.

He said: “I think the standards should remain as they are. To
undercut now does no favours to people who have shown commitment to
higher standards and quality.”

Environmental standards consultation can be found at www.doh.gov.uk/ncsc/escexercise.htm

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