Suffolk County Council-funded care fears

CARE homes across Suffolk could be forced to turn away council-funded residents because the authority is not prepared to pay realistic fees, it was claimed this week.

That was the warning from the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Homes (SAICP) as the county's cabinet agreed to a modest increase in fees. Hilary Gibbs, from the SAICP, told councillors that privately-funded residents were effectively subsidising those whose fees were paid by the council. She said: 'That is not fair, and it is a situation that should not be allowed to happen.'

The cabinet agreed to increase the fees it pays to private care homes by 3pc this year and 4pc next year. That comes after a freeze in 2010/11 and a 4pc cut in fees in 2011/12.

Mrs Gibbs told Tuesday's meeting that members of her association had reluctantly accepted the proposed increases but were very concerned about the impact of the squeeze.

Speaking after the increase was approved unanimously by the cabinet, she said: 'This will lead to some homes not being able to take county council-funded residents. The county is proposing a basic fee of �348 a week. In the homes I represent private residents pay �576 for that level of care. They are subsidising the council-funded residents because you have to have enough money to be able to provide a reasonable level of care.'

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The cost of caring for residents with more serious conditions, especially those suffering from dementia, is higher and the council does pay more – but still not enough to cover all the costs.

During the meeting, Colin Noble, the councillor with responsibility for adult and community services, said the authority had a responsibility to council tax payers to get a good deal.

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He said: 'There has been some tough talking, but we have to make sure we pay no more than required to deliver caring services.'

Labour group leader Sandy Martin warned that a two-tier care system could emerge. He said: 'We could have private residents enjoying good conditions while those who rely on the council could face a reincarnation of the workhouse!'

'That is a very silly comment,' said Mr Noble. 'We have to ensure the best for the people in our care.'

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