Aberdeen Council Accused Of Putting Dementia Sufferers ‘In Jeopardy

Private care home providers in Aberdeen last night accused the council of putting dementia sufferers “in jeopardy” by refusing to reinstate essential funding.

Nine facilities, which look after nearly 200 people, have been forced to subsidise an enhanced service to care for them since a change in Government policy was introduced in April.

The move meant that the city council no longer had to pay an extra £30 per week, per person, towards hiring additional staff to care for elderly people who had “challenging problems”.

The supplement, which was on top of a basic care package worth £501 the authority pays every week for every person, is now being provided by the Scottish Executive.

The decision to bring other local authorities across Scotland in line with Aberdeen saved the council £330,000.

Former resources management committee convener Neil Fletcher claimed the new arrangement meant that private care homes in the city were not losing out.

But current convener Kevin Stewart stressed the council’s budgets were “very tight”.

Providers, who were not consulted about plans to scrap the additional payment, claim the new Scottish Executive payment only relates to basic care packages and not specialist ones.

Umbrella organisation Scottish Care, which represents the facilities, said it was up to individual councils to set their own specialist care rates. Chief executive Ranald Mair said the council had a “perfectly good arrangement in place” until the money was withdrawn without consultation or negotiation.

He said the decision breached a three-year contract they have with the authority, which does not expire until March next year.

Mr Mair said the current situation was not sustainable, which meant that homes would have to “shut their doors” to new admissions.

Kingsmead Care Home at Kingswells, which has a waiting list of 70 people, has already decided to admit only self-funding residents.

Mr Mair claimed the nine homes have collectively spent £150,000 to date in propping up a service the council asked it to provide five years ago.

“Payments for specialist care is not covered by national guidelines so providers have been left high and dry and out of pocket,” he said.

Mr Mair said providers may be forced to take legal action against the council to recoup the money they have lost.

He told the resources management committee that if they had known about the plans the situation could have been handled in a manner that did not adversely affect people currently being cared for.

“The withdrawal and the unwillingness to reinstate funding places in jeopardy the care of these vulnerable people,” he said.

Mr Mair said residents and their families had “no guarantee” that their places in homes were safe.

The committee, while making it clear it was unhappy that care providers were not consulted about plans to withdraw funding, voted 9-4 not to reinstate the money.

Instead, it referred the matter to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities for national guidance.

Cases involving dementia sufferers who could demonstrate they needed additional care would be reviewed to establish if money should be reinstated and backdated.

Kevin Stewart, committee convener, apologised for the situation but said the council’s budgets were “very tight” and it could not afford to refund the money.

“We cannot simply take money from other services, we need to look at the position carefully,” he added.

Mr Stewart said there would be an investigation into why providers were not consulted about the plans.

Mr Mair later said he was disappointed that the committee “expected providers to take the hit” despite saying there was a need for specialist care and that the council handled the process badly.