Shake-up of Norfolk care homes planned
Sarah HallUp to two dozen residential care homes in Norfolk could be closed, but the payback would be a �200m investment in housing with care schemes run by a newly created company linked to the county council.Sarah Hall
Up to two dozen residential care homes in Norfolk could be closed, but the payback would be a �200m investment in housing-with-care schemes run by a newly created company linked to the county council.
Norfolk County Council needs to provide an extra 2,500 care places across the county over the next decade and wants to switch to more housing-with-care schemes rather than its outdated residential care homes.
The council says the 26-care homes it runs in Norfolk are no longer suitable and it would cost �60m to refurbish them.
County Hall, which provides some 830 care places in residential homes in Norfolk is instead considering closing a number of them and building around 20 new housing-with-care schemes - ideally on council-owned land. These would add to the 13 schemes, providing care to 500 elderly people, which are already in operation.
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But, in a radical move, believed to be a first by any council in the country, members of the council's cabinet will be asked to approve the principle of creating a new care company to help turn its care accommodation strategy - known as the Strategic Model of Care - into reality.
Council chiefs say the company, which would be wholly owned by Norfolk County Council and operate within the Norse Group, would be "the best of both worlds" as it would have the commercial know-how to generate funding for the new schemes, while care homes and staff would remain in the public sector, rather than be privatised.
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David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, said: "Older people told us they want more choice, better facilities and the opportunity to move in with their partner if they have to move into care.
"Keeping the status quo will simply not meet the future demand or aspirations of Norfolk's older people - we must act now.
"Upgrading our homes is a major capital investment in very difficult economic times and we cannot deliver this work alone: to turn our strategy into action, we have identified a potential delivery partner to plan and develop the proposed services with us.
"We believe this is an innovative approach, which will lead the field nationally and transform our care homes service to be one of the best examples of its kind in the country."
The council has stressed it will still provide a mixture of residential and nursing care alongside the housing with care schemes, and will work alongside private care companies.
Alison Birmingham, from workers union Unison, said: "It is going to be an enormous change, but we are pleased it is not the wholesale closure of care homes and privatisation of the service which we had feared might happen. It does keep homes for the elderly in the public sector and gives security for the experienced staff at the council."
If cabinet agrees to the principle of a Norse Group arrangement at its March 1 meeting, a detailed business plan will have to be produced and presented to cabinet early in the summer for a decision.
That will lead to further proposals for specific housing-with-care schemes and possible closures of care homes. Proposals for the King's Lynn and west Norfolk area will be developed first, but council bosses stressed they would speak to people affected and deal with changes sensitively.