Older people’s concerns need addressed properly- Overend

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SANDRA Overend, Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster, has called on the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) to ensure that any consultation on the future of care homes for elderly people is “open, transparent and properly takes into consideration the needs of our older people”.

Shesaid: “The consultation on the previous Transforming Your Care strategy was a shambles. After much consternation from residents of the state-run care homes, their families and the general public, the Department for Heath had to intervene and instigate a dramatic climb-down, halting the process. At that time the Minister, Edwin Poots, announced that renewed consultation would be taking place, and that it would be supposedly more robust than before.

“However, the only real climb-down here is from the Minister’s comments from 2009, when he proposed motions to the Assembly, expressing opposition to proposed Residential Care Home closures, yet now is fully behind the Trusts’ plans to close vast swathes of Care Homes around Northern Ireland.

“Firm leadership is required on this issue. The residents of the Care Homes all over Northern Ireland are some of the most vulnerable in our society. They deserve honesty and respect, and to be able to live in a permanent and secure environment of their choosing. Earlier this year a great number of the residents of care homes in Mid-Ulster and across Northern Ireland were left in a state of anxiety and fear following the announcement that their homes were to close.

“Indeed, I presented a petition to the Assembly on behalf of the O4O, Age Concern group in Cookstown, supporting their calls to Save the Westland Home from closure. I also met the residents of the care home, both at Stormont and at Westland Care Home, and heard of their fears and anxieties over their uncertain future at the hands of the Trust and the Minister.”

Mrs Overend continued, “It seems, however, that the aims of the Board remain the same, including the desire to close up to 50% of state-run care homes, and make the house and the community the hub of care for older people. With the HSCB remaining committed to closing so many homes, it runs contrary to their claims residents will be at ‘the core’ of the process. What happens if the residents can’t find alternative accommodation, or the closest they can do is many miles away, will they still be at the core then? I don’t think so and it is wrong of those who have the ability to make these decisions to make such sweeping statements.

“I hope that, having reflected on the furore and indignation directed at the Minister and the Board following their previous attempts to instigate wide-spread closure of state-run care homes in Northern Ireland, the views, concerns and fears of our Older People will be taken fully into consideration through this fresh consultation. The Minister, the Department and the Health Boards now need to consider fully the views of the older people in our society, and their families, and be seen to be acting openly and transparently in their best interest, so that those older people can once again have confidence in the people who are supposed to be caring for them.”