The quality of care for the elderly in Bristol will be improved, thanks to the abuse scandal at Winterbourne View care home, the city council’s Cabinet member for health and social care has said.
Glenise Morgan told Bristol24-7 that the city need not fear the part privatisation of care services for the elderly and vulnerable adults, agreed at the Cabinet meeting last week, because she could guarantee that the checks put in place would be the best in the region.
Radical reforms of the city’s care services were agreed by Cabinet on Thursday at the Council House, which saw demonstrations by campaigners and unions, and angry outbursts during the meeting.
Ms Morgan said she believed those who spoke out were using the event as political “theatre” and attacked them for the “inappropriate” way in which some elderly people were brought along to the council chamber.
In the exclusive interview with Bristol24-7, the former care home worker said that the reform process would begin in August and would be looking for extra government funding in future to cope with the expected rise in the numbers of elderly people and dementia sufferers in the city.
“I understand the fear about privatisation. People want to protect the quality of service in the private sector, but cases such as Winterbourne View are exceptional and the result of that scandal is that there are even greater regulations in place,” she said.
“There will be tighter monitoring in the future and we can guarantee that the checks we do will be the beest in the region.
“There will always be a rogue employee, but that should all be picked up. I can’t give an absolute guarantee when there are human beings involved, but I believe the services we introduce will be as good as our own, which people seem to trust.”
During the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, furious outbursts came from the likes of Geoff Birch, from the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance, who said the move showed the Cabinet were “the messengers of the Tory government” who aimed to destroy the welfare state created in the 1940s.
“Care users and families want good quality care at good prices, but private providers only want as much profit as they can get,” he said.
“We have been paying our taxes for years and the grave is coming nearer, but the funding is being pulled away from us. We want decent in-house services, but they close care homes and make carers redundant – where’s the logic.”
Charmaine Chant from the GMB union, which represents care staff, meanwhile said the plans were nothing more than a “sell off” of social services and told Cabinet: “We don’t trust you. You tell us lies. You are playing with people’s lives.”
Ms Morgan said admitted she had been flustered as she attempted to outline the plans in what became a bear pit for her.
“I don’t mind people being angry but there were people using it as a theatre and those not interested in older people,” she said. “They are confusing government cuts with what we are doing in the council.
“They were using the older people there in a way that I don’t think was appropriate, and it was not at all reassuring for them.
“I would question if any of the protesters had read through the reports in full. Why would we want to do wrong by our elderly and disabled people?
Ms Morgan confirmed that the reform process – which has been some 10 years in the making – would begin as soon as possible, provided there was no last-minute change of heart from the other political parties in Bristol City Council.
The Labour, Conservative and Green parties had all indicated they would support the Liberal Democrat plans, she said, and a three-year process would begin in August.
Those affected by care home closures next year had already been contacted, she said, while people affected by closures in 2013/14 would be written to in September.
The plans are aimed to shift the council’s focus towards specialist dementia care, with more resources provided to enable people to look after themselves and be cared for in their own homes.
While she admitted there was fear about change, she insisted that no-one would be forced out, there would be support for each individual to manage any change and that the aim was to give people more choice in the way they are cared for in future.
“I hope we can now progress. The issue has been a political football in the past, but there are very exciting opportunities out there in dementia care,” she said.
“This has been going on for 10 years, and we are really behind other local authorities.
“You don’t hear how so many people who have already moved are getting on really well. And in the moves to come, it will be done sensitively and they will be supported properly. We are not just putting them somewhere else or telling them they have to be out by a certain time – there is flexibility in the process.
“I don’t mind the abuse but I am keen that the process doesn’t falter because the wrong message gets out there, and I do regret the negative publicity that has frightened people.
“When I was looking into this issue I remember a staff member in a care home we managed saying, ‘the worst thing you could do is do nothing’. I have really taken that message on board. I hope in time we can look back and realise that it was all worthwhile.”