Public ownership of care homes would be good but it will be difficult
29 May, 2020
• I AGREE that care homes should be returned to public ownership though this will not be without difficulty, (Care homes must be brought into public ownership, May 22).
Private provision has been increasing since the 1980s, having been encouraged and supported by successive governments and councils of all political persuasions.
A Competition and Markets Authority study undertaken in 2017 estimated there were then around 5,500 different care home providers operating in the United Kingdom.
The extremely fragmented nature of the sector has not helped in terms of problems in supplying personal protective equipment, PPE, or obtaining tests for both residents and staff.
Islington Council’s two contracts with Care UK to run three care homes were entered into by the Liberal Democrats who ran the council throughout the first decade of this century.
Each contract has a duration of 25 years and the current Labour administration would not be able to get out of them without having to pay a huge amount of money to Care UK.
As with other providers who have taken over local authority provision, Care UK has been able to drive down wages and conditions.
Their staff do not get occupational sick pay – equivalent to full pay – when off sick or currently, having to self-isolate because of symptoms of Covid-19.
On May 14 the government announced a £600million infection control fund for care homes, to be distributed to local authorities.
This can be used to cover the wages of workers who are required to isolate but it seems each local authority will have discretion over whether it is to be used for this purpose.
It is important that staff who have to isolate do not suffer financially and in Islington, the leader of the council, Richard Watts, and deputy leader, Janet Burgess – who is also executive member for health and social care – need to commit to ensuring they are paid for these absences.
Our blog at https://heardcommunity.wordpress.com covers these issues, as well as others associated with the current coronavirus crisis and we welcome and encourage debate.