Disabled woman's home care plea

A poignant last-minute plea by a disabled woman failed yesterday as councillors passed controvers-ial plans to privatise home care support for thousands of Norfolk people.

A poignant last-minute plea by a disabled woman failed yesterday as councillors passed controvers-ial plans to privatise home care support for thousands of Norfolk people.

Caroline Fairless-Price said putting 80pc of the service into the hands of private companies would leave her at the mercy of “poorly trained carers” who could cause her “pain and exhaustion”.

Ms Fairless-Price, from Cringleford, near Norwich, said: “Why are you dismantling the care that meets my needs? I've no confidence that the private sector can be brought up to the required standard.”

Despite her fears, Norfolk County Council's cabinet unanimously passed the plan, which will see the majority of the service gradually handed over to the private sector in the next seven years.

The areas affected will include long-term support packages and specialist dementia and palliative care. The remaining 20pc of the service will be in-house care focusing on intensive short-term support to enable people to regain their mobility.

Chris Mowle, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “The proposals to introduce the new model of home support, and other developments in hand, will provide us with the opportunity to better ensure that all services provided by, or on behalf of the council, reach the right standard.”

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He said the gradual handover would “minimise disruption” for service users, and added that all providers were subject to Commission for Social Care Inspectorate regulations and inspections - which would “ensure the same standards are applied and worked towards by all”.

The council currently spends £33m a year on home support for about 6,000 people a week - with half of the service being carried out by the independent sector.

With the number of elderly people set to rise, the council is keen to shift the focus of its services to intensive support for the first 12 weeks after a new referral - before passing on continuing care to the private sector.

Ms Fairless-Price, who has multiple sclerosis and has used the service for 10 years, added: “This decision will reduce flexibility and managers' ability to provide my care. I need carers who know my individual needs. If that can't be arranged, I will be left with no care or care that causes me pain.”

After the meeting she said: “The decision should have been put off to allow the council to consult the users. The fact that I was the only member of the public at the meeting shows that users do not know enough about what's going to happen.”

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