10 May 2001

Q5 Alison Halford:

What actions is the Minister taking to ensure that Flintshire has a sufficient number of nursing home beds to cater for its growing elderly population? (OAQ11171)

Jane Hutt:

Local authorities have a duty to produce social care plans setting out their strategic goals and their approach to commissioning and managing services to meet local needs, including the residential and nursing care needs of elderly people. Assembly guidance requires local authorities to work in partnership with the voluntary and private sectors, as well as with users and carers. The responsibility for commissioning places in care homes, following an assessment of the individual’s care needs, rests in law with local authorities.

Alison Halford:

Thank you for that helpful remark. Although Flintshire has gone some way to reducing closures, its funding for 2001-02 is still almost £500,000 short of the figure recommended by the National Care Homes Association. What do you think is the long-term solution for funding, in the light of the proper need of nursing homes to fulfil the criteria outlined in the national standards guidelines in 2002?

Jane Hutt:

As I said in answer to a previous question, we are holding discussions with directors of social services about the situation in support of the independent sector and the funding impact upon them. I will also meet representatives of Care Forum Wales and care homes in Wales again to talk about these issues. However, as I said before, there is every indication that, with our support, care homes in Wales will be able to continue their good work.

Janet Ryder:

Do you agree that, when people move into a care home, especially a nursing home, they are usually in a vulnerable situation? That situation can be made much worse if that home faces closure, and those people must then move on, or their carers or relatives have to find them a second placement. What can be done to give these people security of tenure, so that when they go into a nursing home, they are not suddenly faced with the closure of that home and then have to find another bed and another home? That pressure can be fatal in some cases.

Jane Hutt:

We hope that we will not see many such closures of care homes. It is important that we recognise that it is the local authority’s legal duty to commission, provide and liase with nursing and residential provision in their communities. They should be fully engaged, and anticipate the potential problems that homes might face. They should ensure that any such closure, which can be extremely depressing, is well managed. I will be taking that up with the sector.

Peter Rogers:

Anglesey’s elderly population is due to increase rapidly in the next few years. Are you aware that the Isle of Anglesey County Council pays the lowest fees to the independent home-care sector in north Wales? Do you agree that it is necessary that the demands for this care service are met, and that it is imperative that we encourage the independent sector? Is there anything that you can do to end Anglesey council’s stubborn policy of keeping as much in-house care, at the expense of a fair deal for the independent sector?

The Presiding Officer:

Order. This question is about Flintshire, but any comparison between Flintshire and Anglesey might be in order.

Jane Hutt:

I have answered this question in terms of the concerns raised and the fact that our officials are talking to the directors of social services. I myself am talking to the care homes sectors.

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