Elderly hit by care home funding row

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 Eastgate Manor Nursing Home in Mickley
Eastgate Manor Nursing Home in Mickley

TYNEDALE is on the brink of a care crisis which will hit vulnerable and elderly residents hardest, with many of the district’s care providers refusing to do business with Northumberland County Council.

The Courant can reveal that 38 of the 69 care homes in the county have refused to sign a contract with the council. This means that residents whose care is funded through the local authority can not be accommodated in those homes.

The care providers say their hand has been forced by low fees paid by the council. They say the amount paid per resident, per week can be £60 less in Northumberland than a similar facility in Newcastle.

Chairman of trustees at the Charlotte Straker care home in Corbridge, Bill Cunningham, said: “Over the last few years the cost of providing care has increased substantially, but that’s not matched by the fee rate the council is proposing to provide.

“We feel that the quality of care that we provide is jeopardised by the current fee rate. It is unsustainable.”

Following the recent announcement of the closure of Mickley’s Eastgate Manor Care Home, residents have struggled to find a new home.

Judith Robson, of Close House Nursing Home in Hexham, said: “We’ve had families ringing up very upset, and it’s upsetting for us to say no.”

Chairman of Care North East, Keith Gray, said that since 2013, 13 care homes in the county had closed.

Karen Harkin, director of national provider Akari Care which runs Red Brick House in Prudhoe, said: “How many more care homes does Northumberland County Council want to see close?”

The care homes have also questioning what has happened to the £6m of extra Government funding allocated to Northumberland for adult social care and the money accrued for adult social care through council tax.

A council spokesman said: “The three per cent council tax increase is expected to raise £3.75m in the current financial year.

“£3.4m of this funding will be needed simply to cover inflation, including increased payments to care providers to take account of the increase in the National Living Wage, which will in particular mean increased pay for home care workers and staff in care homes.

“The council is still waiting for final confirmation of the rules about how it is allowed to use the further new funding for social care announced in the spring Budget.

“We have asked the large national providers which operate many of the care homes which have not agreed to sign our contract to explain to us how they have been able to continue to operate care homes in other parts of the country where local authorities pay lower fees than any council in the North-East, but they have so far not provided us with any specific information about this.”

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