Cuts threat to Sunderland care homes

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HUNDREDS of elderly people and dementia sufferers are facing hardship at the hands of council cuts.

That is the claim of care homes on Wearside, who say planned cuts could jeopardise the level of care offered to residents.

The Care North East Association (CNEA), which represents residential care homes, claims Sunderland City Council provides less money per head than others in the North East – and is now planning to cut that level by four per cent in 2011.

The council said it is facing “unprecedented savings” over the next four years as a result of funding cuts and must make spending reductions.

John Young, 64, who co-owns The Princess House Residence in Seaburn – the first in the city to be awarded the gold standard – with his wife Jen, said those reductions could mean “ruin” for the home.

“If these cuts go ahead we could be ruined,” he said. “I refuse to cut down on heating or to provide my residents with inferior food so I’m afraid the cuts will come from our training budget.

“That horrifies me because we pride ourselves on the quality of the training of our staff.”

The council set fees for gold-standard homes at £445 a week for residents and £460 a week for dementia sufferers, and The Princess House charges a top-up fee of £28 per week per resident.

Mr Young said: “We are not part of a big chain, we’re just a small, privately-owned home. Because of this I may have to increase the top-up fee.

“If residents’ families can’t then afford this they will move, my home will close and 20 staff will end up out of work. This situation is really serious.”

Lesley Langton, the qualified nurse and manager of Highcliffe Care Centre in Witherwack, part of the national Avery Health Care chain, shares Mr Young’s concerns.

She says the cuts, which come into force in April 2011, will directly affect care home residents.

The 43-year-old said: “We will have to make savings – but in which area? Do we get rid of cooked breakfasts, for example? Or cut down on the facilities we offer?”

Karl Beckett, chairman of CNEA Sunderland, added: “If the city council is genuinely wanting real quality surely it is nonsensical and unsustainable to make cuts when fees are already below par with other councils.”

The CNEA said the fees both homes can charge are determined by the council, and its contribution to care costs varies from resident to resident and is means tested. It said there has been no increase in its contribution for two years, but now it will be cut.

Neil Revely, executive director for Health, Housing and Adult Services at the council, said Government cuts combined with issues such as the increased numbers of older people, mean the council must save more than £80million over the next four years.

He said it was determined to do so “with the least impact possible on services for the most vulnerable people in Sunderland.”

He added: “To that end, it is essential that the council and the care sector work together to tackle the challenges that lie ahead, and so the council is limiting any reductions for care providers to the absolute minimum, while continuing to reward higher quality.”

Mr Revely said the council is also offering to work with care homes to help them achieve efficiencies of their own to offset the impact of the limited reduction being proposed.

He said he recognised the difficulties for any organisation in making cost reductions, but given the level of cuts facing the council the “much smaller” reduction being passed on to care providers is a “reasonable response.”

He claimed gold star-rated homes such as Princess House and Highcliffe Care Centre will face a one per cent reduction in funding, despite the council facing close to nine per cent in funding cuts next year and up to 40 per cent over the next four years.

He added: “The council will continue to work with the care sector to protect the most vulnerable from the severe budget cuts being made to the council, whilst ensuring the highest possible quality standards.”