Councillors approve proposal to increase care places but still need to identify funding

The SIC has approved a proposed increase in the number of long-term care places in Shetland but needs to identify where the money to going to come from.

The community care report, which many councillors hailed as “excellent”, proposes a future mix of additional residential care places, new dementia care places and new extra care housing.

The report also proposes expanding Lerwick care centres Taing House and Edward Thomason House, and linking the kitchen and laundry services of the two, thus freeing up space for more care places.

The probable total cost of these projects is put at almost £14 million. Around 60 new places would be created, half of the amount the council is committed to securing in the next 20 years.

At yesterday’s meeting of the services committee chairman Gussie Angus said Shetland differed from other areas in that there was virtually no private care provision. Elsewhere the local authority was the carer of “last resort”, whereas in Shetland it was the main provider, and has always wanted to provide higher standards than what is available in other places.

Mr Angus pointed out that a site earmarked as suitable for extra care housing building should not be specified as being in Lerwick’s King Harald Street, as there were “competing interests” for the site.

Shetland Central councillor Betty Fullerton said the plan was for Shetland for the next 30 years, but she was not sure if it was value for money. However, she said: “I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend on care.”

Shetland West member Gary Robinson and Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills asked where the money was coming from, and said that the government should fund the proposal.

Shetland North councillor Alastair Cooper said: “We’ve got no more money. [The proposal] will have to come from existing resources.” It would go through the gateway process, he said, and “find its own level.” The gateway process is a means of prioritising where projects appear in the capital programme.

Mr Cooper moved that the report be approved with the recommendation that “additional revenue costs . . . will be required in the community care service budgets . . . and the corresponding savings required by council have not been identified” should be changed to “will have to be identified and reported to the committee”.

He was seconded by Mr Robinson, who said that apart from the £14 million capital cost, he was worried about the estimated £1.1 million revenue cost.

Dr Wills shared the concern about running costs, saying: “This is the time to say to the government to do their job.” He also suggested that the council separate its functions of education and social care so that each section can have specific attention.

Dr Wills estimated that the proposals would create around 58-62 new care places of varying types, equating to around £225,000 per place. Shetland West councillor Frank Robertson compared this to the current cost of £150,000 to build a house.

North Isles member Laura Baisley commended the report for its “holistic” rather than “piecemeal” approach, and said other sources of funding should be looked at, possibly from the public.

Ms Baisley said: “There must be a mechanism to allow people to invest, to buy a stake in sheltered housing which could be transferred to their heirs.”

Lerwick South councillor Caroline Miller called the proposals a “wish list” and said “something’s got to give”. It could be that charging for certain [currently free] services could start, and she suggested selling St Clement’s Hall, a piece of council’s property identified in the report as unsuitable for conversion into care accommodation.

Mrs Miller also agreed with a recommendation in the report that there should be no specific limit placed on the number of beds in care centres, providing a “homely atmosphere” could be maintained.


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