A care chief has written to MPs in Northumberland to warn that within five years, nearly one third of elderly people in the county could struggle to find a residential care-home bed, as care homes are forced to close their doors.
The warning comes after the sector has struggled with chronic public-sector under-funding over the last five years and is now facing huge additional costs with the introduction of the National Living Wage.
In light of deeply worrying findings in a report published by independent thinktank ResPublica released last week, Martin Green OBE, the chief executive of Care England, wrote to Northumberland MPs urging them to contact the Chancellor ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review later this month and impress on him the seriousness of the crisis facing the care sector unless urgent extra sufficient government funding was provided.
Professor Green said: “It is no exaggeration to say the care sector is on the brink of a catastrophic collapse and in desperation we are turning to MPs in Northumberland for support.
“We urge them to write to the Chancellor and impress on him the seriousness of the situation which will have a significant impact on thousands of elderly vulnerable people in Northumberland.”
He added: “MPs and the Government must act swiftly or be faced with a care sector crisis bigger than the collapse of Southern Cross and more severe than that facing the steel industry.
“As ResPublica reported, some 37,000 residents may be made homeless if the sector collapses – these are real, vulnerable elderly people and their families who will be affected, with the Government facing a human tragedy of its own making. It must act urgently and effectively to save the care sector.”
ResPublica’s report, entitled The Care Collapse: The Imminent Crisis in Residential Care and its Impact on the NHS, evidenced that, following the introduction of the National Living Wage in April 2016, 37,000 local authority-funded care home beds will be lost in England as care homes are forced to close their doors.
This equates to a 28 per cent shortfall in the number of care home beds needed to meet demand by 2020. Within just five years, almost a third of elderly people in Northumberland could struggle to find a residential care home bed and receive the support when they are most in need.
ResPublica also predicts a £1.1billion funding gap, a third of which will be due to the increased cost of paying staff the National Living Wage.
Professor Green’s letter emphasised that the care sector welcomed the implementation of the National Living Wage for carers in recognition of their very difficult and demanding role. However, the industry leader warned of the effect of this on care home finances and the sustainability of the care sector.
Unlike many businesses, staff wages account for 70 per cent of care homes’ costs and 55 per cent of all people in residential care are state-funded by local authorities or Clinical Commissioning Groups which must be able to meet the increase in costs caused by the National Living Wage.