Think again plea on future of Fife care homes

North Eden House
North Eden House
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PRESSURE is mounting on Fife Council to revisit a controversial decision to privatise local authority-run care homes amid fears for the welfare of residents following a spate of scandals in the private care sector.

A group of campaigners fighting to save North Eden House in Cupar have written to Fife’s head of older people’s services Rhona Laing to express ‘serious concerns’ about the fate of their loved ones in the wake of the financial crisis surrounding care provider Southern Cross Healthcare and the BBC’s exposure of abuse of vulnerable adults at a private care home in Bristol.

First Minister Alex Salmond also appeared to criticise Fife Council’s plans by urging caution to those who want to privatise social care.

Earlier this year, Fife’s SNP/Liberal Democrat coalition pushed through plans to transfer the running of all 10 council-run care homes — including North Eden House — to the private or not-for-profit sector, saying that budget cuts meant that there was not enough money to refurbish them all.

The administration insists that both council-run and private homes are inspected by Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland — formerly the Care Commission — and that there is no difference in the care they offer.

Shirley Clarke, who spearheaded the campaign against the closure of North Eden House, where her elderly father is a resident, said this week that relatives and carers were all ‘seriously worried’ about the impact of the possible collapse of Southern Cross, the UK’s largest private provider, which has seven care homes in the Kingdom.

“Mr Salmond’s comments seemed to represent the complete opposite from the SNP stance in Fife,” she said.

“The situation with Southern Cross led to him warning against the privatisation of social care, so we want to know exactly what is going to happen and how that financial crisis will affect the homes in Fife.”

Councillor Tim Brett, chair of the council’s social work and health committee, said that Southern Cross’s troubles had been known about for some time and that contingency arrangements were in place to take over the care of residents if necessary.

“There are more than 40 different providers in Fife and just because one is in trouble doesn’t mean any of the others are,” he said.

“It is far too simplistic to assume that council-run means good and privately-run means bad, as the council doesn’t always get it right either.

“We have had initial discussions with a number of providers who have expressed an interest in taking over the council homes and we hope to have completed the tendering processs by September, when we will engage the relatives to help us choose the providers who will best meet the needs of their loved ones.”