If it ain't broke, why fix it?

SIR - Hindsight is a wonderful facility which allows us to see that the county council s policy to unload its residential care was premature and misconceived. Back in 2006 the council was frightened by statistical projections that the population of Devo

SIR - Hindsight is a wonderful facility which allows us to see that the county council's policy to unload its residential care was premature and misconceived. Back in 2006 the council was frightened by statistical projections that the population of Devon would increase 30 per cent by 2031 and that the residents 65 plus would rise by 71 per cent.These Office of National Statistics projections were based on central Government's demands that Devon build hundreds of thousands of extra homes. Given the current economic situation and future outlook for house building, the population prophecy is very dubious. So in fear of possible demands in the future the council decided to abandon ship without understanding real current needs and the fine detail of the initial agreement with their chosen provider, Shaw Healthcare. This initial deal looked ludicrously one-sided. The council would continue to meet all the costs of running the homes until they were developed and bear all the financial risks of any delays to the development process. In the committee Report CX/09/01 it was stated that for the first four years of the agreement operating costs for the homes would be higher. In addition the council would make cash injections totalling �24 million. The council estimated a revenue benefit of �119m over the 30-year agreement period. The extra costs are real but are the benefits realisable? Part of the agreement was that after 30 years Shaw could pick up the balance of the 125-year lease for �40 million which could prove to be the bargain of the century.The Health and Adult Services overview Task Force have been very critical of many aspects of the proposed deal with Shaw Healthcare, particularly the danger of cost escalations. For instance they expressed concern over the level of the service charge paid by occupants and in particular that this did not include a care element. Indeed "they could face a significant additional financial burden which some might find themselves unable to meet". It was accepted that implementing the later revised proposal would result in the smaller homes closing. The Executive Director gave his assurance that residents of homes due for closure would be given the option of continued residential care elsewhere. The problem with this assurance is that the smaller communities eg South Molton whose Beech House was earmarked for replacement with extra care flats, have no spare care home capacity. The placement could be miles away from the displaced residents' community. The residents of homes being closed also had the assurance that they would be given reasonable notice which hardly seems a consolation. The original proposal also appeared to entail the loss of existing day care facilities including respite. More assurances have been given that alternative provision would be made to cover these needs.The report revealed that all the council's homes meet current legislation and are fit for purpose. The obvious comment at this stage is "If it's not broke, why fix it" at great financial risk and much stress and uncertainty for residents and their families?The current policy has been misconceived, mismanaged and is a mess. Restoring the status quo would be a very sensible outcome even allowing for the million odd pounds wasted to date.Tony Martin, South Molton


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