On Monday I will be visiting the vigil arranged by relatives of Brushwood and Millvina Care Homes. A Labour Cllr has already accused me of grandstanding. I can assure him that I am only going because I have been asked to go. If I hadn’t been asked, I would have asked the relatives if they would like me to come. The last thing we want in a situation like this is Party Politics. I am going because above all I want hear from the carers of the residents.
I personally feel that it is important that politicians ought to be around when there are problems. It’s great to turn up at an opening of a place or to deliver good news. Talking to people about bad news however, is something that too many people shy away from.
We should never forget that we are dealing here with money and statistics although both of those are important. We are dealing with 83 very fragile and confused people. Just as importantly we are dealing with probably 1,000 relatives and friends who are desperate to ensure that the residents will continue to be cared for properly. There are also 130 jobs to be considered here at a time when unemployment is rising rapidly.
I’ve also been accused by another Labour councillor of not knowing what I am talking about. That, in part, is correct. On the day that the closures were announced I asked for a meeting of the Health & Wellbeing Board where the Council and Health sectors consider strategy and the Health & Social Care Select Committee which has a statutory responsibility to scrutinise health and social care systems and strategies in the City. In the past 6 weeks there has been no attempt to either call a meeting of those committees or even to let representatives of the committee have a briefing. This is wholly unacceptable.
So, what do we know?
Firstly, because of the work I do on Health & Social care nationally, I know that all over the Country providers of residential health care are having difficulties. To be blunt a lot of the people they care for have died earlier than expected and that relatives are reluctant to put their loved ones into a care home because of the problems that occurred during the early stages of lockdown.
Secondly, we know that in Liverpool and all over the UK more people are living longer and therefore that more people will develop dementia. For many they will enter at worst a situation which we used to think of as being, ‘slightly dotty’. But a proportion will end up being beyond the ability of their family to provide day to day. That’s what Millvina and Brushwood are all about. As more and more people get older, more and more people will need alternative dementia care. This is not someone else’s problem. Before we die 30% of us will have some dementia problems. I have two relatives who are suffering at this point in time. So, if we don’t need these places now, we will need them in the very near future.
Thirdly, we do know that these are first class facilities with first class staff offering a first-class service. That’s what I want for my relatives and for me if I end up needing such help. These facilities have enabled residents to live with the maximum dignity and for their families and friends to have the maximum reassurance about the care being given.
What we don’t know is a much longer list.
When did the Council know there were difficulties?
Why did they sign up to the contract that they did?
Why did they build two blocks at the same time?
What was the estimate made pre-Covid about the number of people who would need this facility?
What is the estimate now being made during and hopefully at some stage post-Covid about the numbers who will need these facilities and when they will be required?
What alternatives is the Council looking at for the buildings? Both the Mayor and Cabinet Member for Health have made clear that they will not let the buildings be used for something outside social care so what do they have in mind?
Did any expression of interest come in for a new contractor to care for the staff?
How many places are there in high quality facilities for the residents to be moved to?
So, there are more questions than answers. I think it sad that the Council is so reluctant to come forward to talk about the background to this; the current situation; and the future for the buildings, residents and staff.
I personally think that the Council is looking at things the wrong way round. Instead of seeing how they can empty the buildings they should be working out how to fill them! There is a growing need out there which may need slightly different types of services than the ones currently being provided. However, just look round your own community and see the people who do need real, high standard care.
We now have an opportunity provided by the Government who have announced £546 million for care homes in England over the Winter. I urge the Council to use some of this money to extend the use of the homes for 6 months whilst long-term solutions for filling the building are worked out.
When I go to join the vigil on Monday, I will happily talk about these things. More importantly I want to go and listen to the families and share their experiences with mine so that I fully understand the very personal stories and situations that lie behind each and every one of the 83 people so badly affected by this potential closure.