The controversy surrounding the planned closure of Glenside rumbles on.
The Department of Social Care has decided to close Glenside as part of its policy of moving away from residential care towards supporting people in their own home, which they believe to be what most people want.
This may well be true. All things being equal, most people would probably want to stay in their own homes.
However, I believe that there are quite a few older people who live in unsatisfactory accommodation, are socially isolated, cannot afford the care they need or cannot keep themselves safe because they have dementia, and for these people residential care may be the best option.
Glenside is to close and some 60 residents are going to have to be moved. Their families are naturally concerned about the adverse effect this may have on them. The building is 40 years old, and I accept that shared toilets are no longer acceptable. If the building could not have been modernised, I would have liked it to have been replaced so that the residents could have been moved en bloc.
Having said all that, I fully support the move towards caring for older people in their own homes.
We need a wide range of affordable good-quality support services to help people maintain their independence, from ‘light-touch’ social support like day centres and ‘live at home’ schemes, through to round-the-clock nursing care. However, this level of support is expensive; more expensive than most people can afford. If the government is serious about wanting older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, it needs, I believe, to do several things. It should:
• help people who cannot afford the level of care they need, using the money that Income Support would have paid for residential or nursing care.
• enable older people who own their own homes but have limited income or savings to access some of the value of their home to pay for the help and equipment they need, possible by an equity release scheme or by putting a charge on their property.
• expand the services it provides e.g. the home care and community nursing services.
• have a properly funded equipment and adaptations budget, to pay for things like stairlifts.
• give adequate funding to the not-for-profit agencies who are supporting people on its behalf.
• regulate the private care agencies, to ensure high standards.
To summarise, we need both residential care and community care. Both options come at a cost, and saving money should not be the driving force.