Behind the headlines

After years of care home closures because the pressure to meet
new standards was too great, the Department of Health performed a
dramatic U-turn when it announced that some of the standards would
be scrapped for homes open before April this year. Those sacrificed
concerned environmental aspects of care homes, such as space,
baths, doorways and single rooms; these standards had previously
forced many care home owners out of the business claiming they were
unable to afford the costs. New homes will still have to conform to
the standards. Responses to the change of mind were mixed. National
Care Homes Association chief executive Sheila Scott said care homes
would now be able to focus on quality issues. But Association for
Residential Care chief executive James Churchill said the
amendments would result in a two-tier market as homes which had not
complied with the standards would be able to charge lower fees.

Help the Aged said that the reason homes had closed had more to
do with inadequate government funding than standards.

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“The government U-turn on care standards is disgraceful. It seeks
to deal with the problems of closures by reducing the quality of
life for older people. What we need is a proper, long-term response
that puts quality of care at the centre of the agenda and deals
with the inadequate funding of residential care. In other sectors,
such as farming, when there is a crisis the government produces
billions of pounds in unplanned expenditure, yet, when dealing with
this issue, its response is not to spend more but to reduce
standards. I think this says something about how older people are
valued by both the government and society.”

Julia Ross, executive director of health and social and
social care, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
“Standards are standards and I’d hope that we will strive
to get the best for older people regardless of this new
announcement. I get fed up with pressure groups that oppose the
upgrading of care homes on the grounds that standards are not
required, almost as fed up with those that assume that we will not
pursue standards just because we don’t have to. Managing the market
locally requires maturity and determination and that’s what social
services will continue to do.”

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
“Another example of the government making a U-turn! I can
understand why this has occurred but it does somewhat undermine
those homes that have shown a commitment to improved standards.
‘Flexibility’ is the spin that has been used but I wonder how many
older people will have to continue living in double occupancy rooms
when they really have no wish to do so, yet don’t feel empowered to
speak out.”

Bill Badham, programme manager, Children’s Society
“For the government in effect to blame the loss of 50,000
care home places for elderly people in four years on seeking better
quality is a remarkable bit of spin. To tackle the problem by
getting rid of these quality standards for current accommodation
undermines those who have made improvements and of course fudges
the source of the crisis which is, as Help the Aged says, national
and local government underfunding.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
At least this government retreat will take away the excuse
for local authorities currently rushing to close their homes for
the elderly, and also their children’s homes. However, if the
government is to avoid creating a two-tier system and to create
quality provision, then there is a need to determine a phased and
managed introduction of the quality standards – and the same should
apply to children’s homes before there are no children’s homes

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