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Alarm bell rings on cost of care for the elderly

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government published a report on care for the elderly and warned of the possible consequences of underfunding.

Not only would the quality of care suffer, with serious consequences for residents, homes would struggle to retain staff, residents who could afford to pay for their care could also be charged more and, in extreme cases, some care homes would be forced out of business altogether.

According to the owners of many private care homes in Scotland, all of these scenarios are more likely due to the way in which Glasgow City Council has handled its recent procurement process, which ended yesterday. The council is the first to break away from the national deal on care home funding - something that all councils are due to do by next April when health and social care will be integrated - but Scottish Care, which represents private care home owners, says the council has insisted on rates that are far too low to provide a decent level of care.

In attempting to reach an agreement with private care homes, Glasgow City Council is only obeying the law but Ranald Mair, the chief executive of Scottish Care, says the council has failed properly to engage with homes on what is a fair price for the care they provide. Naturally, the cost of care will vary in different homes for residents with different needs but, if we accept the £800 a week that the council spends in its homes as a guide, the tender it has offered the care homes falls at least £200 short of that and, in some cases, by a greater amount.

In his trenchant response, Mr Mair has warned of the consequences of this offer on care homes, predicting they will either be forced to accept the deal or refuse to take part in the procurement process with possibly serious consequences for their business.

In issuing such a warning, Scottish Care is obviously looking after its business interests as well as the interests of its residents, but it helps provide care to more than 34,000 people and, with a few high-profile exceptions, homes in Scotland take pride in providing the best level of service they can.

Scottish Care's warning also adds to the growing body of evidence that the funding of elderly care in Scotland is inadequate and Glasgow City Council's apparent unwillingness to negotiate on price will do nothing to promote a debate about what such care costs and how we are to pay for it. The council's actions are also likely to set a bad precedent for others that will follow in its footsteps.

It is likely that some care homes will suffer under the council's strictures but, more worryingly, the under-funding is likely to be felt most by those who least deserve it, including the carers themselves, many of whom are on a minimum wage or zero-hours contracts.

Scottish Care plans to seek a judicial review of the whole process but, before that happens, Glasgow City Council should look again at how it can be made more open, honest and fair for the sake of the care homes but, more importantly, for the sake of the people who live in them.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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