A leading social care spokesman has urged the country to cherish its vital network of care homes as they face an uncertain future.
Speaking ahead of this week’s National Care Home Open Day, Mike Padgham says the country has wonderful care homes that are envied the world over.
But he fears that serious under-funding and spiralling costs means that some homes are facing a struggle for survival.
“National Care Home Open Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and cherish the fantastic work that care homes do, up and down the country, 365 days a year to look after frail and vulnerable people who can no longer look after themselves,” he said. “But we must cherish and protect them as their future looks increasingly uncertain.”
This year’s fourth open day has the theme celebration and is an opportunity to showcase the work care homes do and dispel the myths that exist.
The Care Quality Commission recently reported that standards at care homes were improving and that three quarters of care homes previously rated inadequate had improved their rating when re-inspected.
Mr Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire) added: “We are truly blessed in this country to have such a wide variety of wonderful care homes, staffed by excellent, dedicated and committed staff who work round the clock to provide outstanding and compassionate care to people who cannot live without it.
“This week’s open day will again demonstrate that to the country as homes open their doors to the public to put on show the care they offer.
“But at the same time we have to face up to the fact that the future for our care homes is uncertain to say the least. Unless we wake up and properly fund social care, because of funding pressures and rising costs, we will lose some homes altogether.
“When they are gone and people are struggling to find places for older and vulnerable adults to live, it could be too late to do anything about it.”
According to recent research, a quarter of care homes in the UK are in danger of going under within three years. From a market of 20,000 homes (run by 6,000 operators) – some 5,000 are at risk because of debt, difficulty covering loan repayments and rising costs.
Laing Buisson say in the 12 months to September 2015, more than 7,700 care beds were lost in England, against 6,100 new beds being opened – a net loss of 1,600 beds.
By the end of summer 2016, a further 2,500 care beds will be lost, suggesting a loss of more than 4,000 care beds in just two years.
The last six years has seen more than £5bn cut from social care budgets and the amount local authorities pay to providers to offer care has been savagely cut back. The National Living Wage saw the minimum pay for staff aged over 25 rise to £7.20 an hour -the current national minimum wage is £6.70.
Social care providers say this will have a devastating effect on their already struggling businesses. The 2% precept councils were offered to help pay for social care will not scratch the surface and not even help providers meet the additional costs of the National Living Wage.