Urgent action needed to protect vulnerable residents
Residential care homes in Scotland are facing a crisis due to rising costs, a leading charity has warned.
Age Scotland is now calling for urgent action to protect vulnerable residents following the announcement of the closure of an East Lothian care home.
Renaissance Care, one of Scotland’s largest private care providers, plans to close its Levenhall Care Home in Musselburgh, with chairman Robert Kilgour saying that the sector is struggling due to rising costs.
Age Scotland is urging providers and commissioners to work together to prevent similar closures and ensure a smooth transition for the residents affected.
The charity has called for a compulsory risk register for care homes, as recommended by the Residential Care Taskforce in March 2015, to anticipate and mitigate similar closures in future.
Renaissance also operates homes in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Forres, Peterhead and Blairgowrie.
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s chief executive, said: “Any closure will have a serious impact on the health of vulnerable residents, and moving them could even put their lives at risk.
"Poorly planned moves are extremely stressful for older people and can be extremely detrimental to their physical and mental health. We hope that Renaissance is working with local authorities and the Scottish Government to protect older people and their families.
“We’re very concerned about the increasing problems facing the sector. This announcement is a warning bell and we’re aware that there are similar problems throughout the country. With Brexit on the horizon, the current issues around recruiting staff are likely to get worse.
“We would urge councils, the Scottish Government and providers to get round the table and work together to mitigate similar issues.
"With 80% of care home places provided by the private sector, there is always a risk that they will be affected by financial difficulties or other emergencies.
“Putting in place an effective contingency planning process could ensure that early action is taken to prevent closure or ensure a smooth transition.”
Kilgour said extra costs incurred by complying with the Scottish carers living wage and the apprenticeship levy, along with a shortage of nurses and Brexit, were creating insurmountable problems for the sector.
Poorly planned moves are extremely stressful for older people and can be extremely detrimental to their physical and mental health - Brian Sloan
The apprenticeship levy forces employers who have staff costs of over £3 million per year to pay 0.5% of their annual bill to the government for training.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in dependency level in older people over the last five years, which means more staffing is required,” Kilgour said. “But what is being paid by our main customer, local authorities with government funding, has not kept pace.
“As about 75% of our residents are local authority funded and between 60 to 65% of our fee income goes on staff costs, it is only fair that our main customer, the Scottish Government, properly funds this progressive move.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Funding through the national care home contract has increased by 13.2% per week from 2015-16 to 2017-18, allowing independent care providers to invest in staff, quality of service, and to take a reasonable return from the business.”