Local refugee support group backs County Council’s request for help in finding accommodation for refugees
Ottery Refugee Response have sent me Devon County Council’s appeal for help in finding accommodation:
Devon is playing its part in meeting the UK government’s pledge to bring 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020. We are also part of the government’s national programme to look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Resettling Syrian families
Local councils working together across Devon have pledged to house over 40 Syrian families. Since June 2016, families have arrived in Devon at the rate of just over one each month on average. Families continue to arrive when housing is ready for them. To meet our pledges, we need landlords who will rent properties to councils to house refugee families. The UK government’s resettlement programme provides funding to Councils for housing and other resettlement costs such as English classes, interpreting, cultural orientation and help into work.
Looking after unaccompanied children
In summer 2016, the government set up a ‘national transfer scheme’ so that councils across the country could share the responsibility for looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. These children may arrive in the UK independently or under government programmes. Devon joined the national transfer scheme from the start. We are already looking after children placed with us under that scheme and we have indicated to the government that we are prepared to receive children over the next few years in line with that commitment.
In autumn 2016, Devon hosted a temporary Home Office centre to look after children brought into the UK to be reunited with family members when the Calais ‘Jungle’ was closed.
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County Council asks Highways England to bring forward and implement proposals for the A35 at Wilmington ‘as soon as practicable’
Beds, beds, beds – Devon’s NHS couldn’t or wouldn’t give me their overall occupancy figure for the recent winter: but they were forced to buy in more capacity and there were ’12-hour trolley breaches’
Devon NHS’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) admitted in a report to Health Scrutiny yesterday that they had been desperately short of beds during the recent winter. They had to buy in extra beds to keep up with more patients staying longer, because of complex conditions. There were ’12-hour trolley breaches’, where patients had to wait more than 12 hours to be seen.
Despite my asking them directly, they did not give a figure for overall occupancy levels, although they did not deny my suggestion that they had been as bad as or worse than the nationally reported level of 95 per cent. (The nationally recommended safe level is 85 per cent.)
Jo Tearle, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the Devon CCGs, rebutted my suggestion that cutting community beds had contributed to this crisis, saying that these were not the kind of beds they had needed, and that there had been capacity in community hospitals most of the time. However this suggests that there was no capacity some of the time. It is difficult not to believe that extra community beds wouldn’t have given them more leeway.
Meanwhile, Kerry Storey of Devon County Council indicated the strains that the ‘new model of care’ at home had been under. She said that maintaining personal care at home during the winter had been ‘a real challenge’, requiring ‘creativity and innovation’ – you don’t need much imagination to see that it will have been a real crisis time with frail people at home in isolated areas, care workers and nurses struggling to get through the snow, and staff themselves suffering higher levels of illness.
I and others predicted that because of the closure of community beds, there would be severe pressure on beds in a bad winter or a flu epidemic (and actually, this was not overall a bad winter and the snow episodes were late and short; despite higher levels of flu, there was no epidemic this winter).
Shock revelation at Health Scrutiny suggests the ‘new model of care’ is more about switching intermediate care from community hospitals to ‘block bookings’ in private nursing homes – saving costs and freeing up assets. How long will it last?
There was a staggering revelation yesterday at Health Scrutiny from Liz Davenport, Chief Executive of South Devon and Torbay NHS Foundation Trust, that they had made ‘block bookings of intermediate care beds in nursing homes’ when they introduced the ‘new model of care’. South Devon has closed community hospitals in Ashburton, Bovey Tracey, Paignton and Dartmouth and is currently consulting on the closure of Teignmouth – where I spoke at a rally last Saturday.
The ‘new model of care’ is supposed to mean more patients treated in their own homes, and there does seem to have been an increase in the numbers of patients sent straight home from the main hospitals.
But the idea that all patients can be transferred directly from acute hospitals to home is untrue. There is still a need for the stepping-down ‘intermediate care’ traditionally provided by community hospitals – the only difference is that now it’s being provided in private nursing homes instead.
It’s likely to be cheaper to use private homes, because staff don’t get NHS conditions, and crucially it frees up space in the hospitals so that the CCGs can declare buildings ‘surplus to requirements’ and claim the Government’s ‘double your money’ bonus for asset sales. It seems NEW Devon CCG has also made extensive use of nursing home beds, but we don’t yet know if there were ‘block bookings’.
However the private nursing home solution may not last – DCC’s chief social care officer, Tim Golby, reported that nursing homes are finding it difficult to keep the registered nurses they need to operate, and some are considering reversion to residential care homes.
This may be where the South Devon trust’s long term solution comes in – it had already been reported that it is looking to partner with a private company in a potential £100m deal which will include creating community hubs that contain inpatient beds.
The new model of care is also about privatisation.
I tell Health Scrutiny why Seaton and Honiton need to keep services in our hospitals – Exmouth Tory tells me I’m ‘abusing the procedure’
When Claire Wright put ‘community hospitals’ as an item on the Devon Health Scrutiny Committee today, I went along and argued why Seaton and Honiton hospitals need to stay open with all the services and clinics currently provided – and more. Then Conservative Councillor Richard Scott from Exmouth – where the hospital is safe because it’s kept its beds – accused me of ‘abusing the procedure’. Claire and deputy chair Nick Way (Lib Dem) both defended me. The Tories then block-voted against Claire’s attempt to get the Committee to protect ALL community hospitals.
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