Future of Waveney’s council-run care homes in spotlight

THE future of Suffolk's 16 council-owned care homes – including two in Lowestoft and one in Beccles – should become clearer next week.

But it has emerged that there have been 28 'expressions of interest' in running the care homes as Suffolk County Council considers their future.

The county council has been carrying out a consultation exercise on its homes since last year – and their future will be debated by its cabinet next week. Among them are the Blyford Residential Home, in Blyford Road, Lowestoft; Stradbroke Court, in Green Drive, Lowestoft, and the Dell residential home, in Nelson Way, Beccles.

When the consultation exercise was launched last year, the council said six homes could be considered for closure while another 10 could be transferred to other operators.

Since then officials and councillors have visited every one of the council's homes in Suffolk to speak to residents, families and staff.

On Thursday<17>, members of the county's scrutiny committee considered evidence about how the county should meet older people's accommodation needs.

Peter Tempest, assistant director of adult and community services, said: 'We have had 28 solicitors' expressions of interest regarding some or all of the care homes.

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'And it is also true that we have approached 18 national organisations for an opinion on our care homes and would they like to express an interest at some point if we take them to the market.'

Mr Tempest said that the council's care homes were only a small proportion of the total number of care homes across the county – but they did provide a large number of specialist services.

Labour group leader Sandy Martin said that generally people had a very high opinion of county council care homes.

He said: 'Many people prefer to be in county council homes compared with those in the private sector.'

Conservative councillor Colin Hart said it was a concern that people in county council homes were seen to be getting a better deal than those paying for private accommodation.

He said: 'I don't want to bring down the standards, but there is a certain unfairness.'

Mr Tempest said four out of the 16 Suffolk County Council care homes were rated 'excellent' by government regulators – roughly the same proportion as in the private and voluntary sector.

The remainder of the council's homes were rated 'good', or using the new standard 'compliant'.

He pointed out that 75 per cent of people supported by the county council in residential homes were in private or voluntary sector accommodation.

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