Hi-tech flats set to replace 20 crumbling care homes
By Derby Telegraph | Saturday, February 11, 2012, 07:50
A NEAR-£200 million scheme which would see Derbyshire's elderly being looked after in hi-tech apartments instead of care homes has been revealed.
Under the plans, the county council would demolish or close 20 care homes over the next seven years.
Just eight would remain but 1,600 new specialist flats for elderly people would be created.
Pensioners eligible for a place in a council care home would be entitled to ask for one of the new apartments.
If they sold their home, the money could be used to buy one of the flats or be put towards the cost of renting.
People on housing benefits would be able to use them to pay rent.
The apartments would feature gadgets designed to make sure residents were safe, including panic buttons which could call for on-site help 24 hours a day, lights which would come on automatically when someone entered a room, and sensors which would show when someone had got out of bed in the night.
Councillor Charles Jones, cabinet member for adult care, said the plans would allow elderly people to "keep their own front door" by having an apartment to themselves.
He said: "This gives them the opportunity to have their own quality property with their partner but with 24/7 care available."
Mr Jones said a decision on who would get the apartments would be made by boards with representatives from the applicants' local district councils, the county council, and the homes' developers.
They would base their decision on where the applicants lived or whether an individual, or one or both of a couple, had "care needs", for example, the early stages of dementia.
He said the plan would involve, wherever possible, providing "extra care" apartments within five miles of every current home in the county and dementia beds within 10.
He said: "We are looking to future-proof the county's elderly care delivery.
"In a decade's time we will have to think about further developments but we will consider that when the time comes."
He said 11 county council care homes, including sites in Belper, Ripley, Borrowash, and Ashbourne, would, under the proposals, close in five to seven years' time.
Other care homes would be demolished and replaced by the new apartments.
The proposal will go to the council's cabinet to decide on the broad plan for the changes on Monday, February 20, but will be subject to alteration as those affected by the work are consulted.
It represents a "Plan B" for the authority after its proposal to build six large "super care homes" using £106 million of Government PFI credits had to be shelved when its bid for the cash failed.
The council had already found cash to build two of these, in Swadlincote and Staveley.
Under the new plan, another would now be built next to Whitworth Hospital, Darley Dale, while a fourth would be built on the site of the current Florence Shipley care home at Heanor.
They would include facilities like a hairdressers, a clinic and a gym.
These care complexes would mean a major increase in the number of beds for dementia care in the county.
Other new services that would be built across Derbyshire would include new day care centres and "health and wellbeing" centres where people could drop in for health checks.
Four care homes would be retained as they do not need major refurbishment.
These include Castle Court, Castle Gresley and other homes in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Bolsover and Eckington.
Other elderly people would be accommodated in the extra care apartments.
The total £196 million cost of the new plan would be met by £46 million the council has raised from its own budget, with £150 million coming from developers who would build the extra care flats on land provided by the county council.
Those developers would earn cash through the sale or part-sale of the flats or rent paid for them.
Bill Robertson, the council's strategic director for adult care, said at least two private social housing developers had been lined up to build the 1,600 extra care apartments on 27 sites around the county.
Among the care homes that would be demolished and replaced by extra care apartments are Beechcroft, West Hallam; The Dales, Repton; Ladycross House, Sandiacre; and Hazelwood, Cotmanhay.
A consultation into the plans for these homes would run between this April and March 2013.
The council wants to claw back between £8 million and £14 million from the "disposal" of 11 homes.
These would include Ada Belfield, Belper; Rowthorne, Swanwick; The Glebe, Alfreton; The Willows, Ripley; The Leys, Ashbourne; Briar Close, Borrowash; Hillcrest, Kirk Hallam; Southlands, Long Eaton; and others in Clowne, Chesterfield, and High Peak.
Mr Robertson said a public consultation on plans for these homes would not begin until "the financial year 2013-14 at the earliest".
Mr Robertson said most of the council's care homes were "clapped out".
He said the council would "have to be honest with people" if they said they wanted to move into the homes earmarked for demolition or closure.
Councillor Dave Allen, Labour shadow cabinet member for adult care, said his party supported the idea of increasing extra care.
He said: "Other councils are looking to sell off their care homes to private firms so in that sense it's a positive move."
But he warned that Labour councillors would be scrutinising the homes earmarked to close.
Katy Pugh, chief executive of Age UK in Derbyshire, said that her organisation was in favour of extra care as long as it was among a raft of other options for elderly people's living arrangements.