One of the largest providers of private residential care for older people is at serious risk of going bust.
A private residential hospital providing care for people with a learning disability is exposed on national television for routinely abusing residents.
Questions are raised in the House of Commons, as the care commission responsible for inspecting homes admits it failed to protect residents.
What is the common link between these failures? The increased generality of the private care sector.
Many local authorities no longer provide residential care for older people or people with a learning disability. Why? Because they were expected to compete with the private sector on price and couldn’t. This price war also meant small homes could not compete; 12 beds may be cosy, but 60 is cost effective.
At a time when the authorities did not have the money to build new homes, the private sector seduced many with their purpose built units with en suite facilities, walk in showers, fitted wardrobes and fitted carpets and a television and phone in every room just like a hotel. And of course succumbing to the private sector will be attractive when the quality of care will be regularly inspected.
Local authorities’ budget cuts meant they did not up rate care home fees when faced with rising costs. This and the staffing cuts in the reorganised inspection service resulted in a “light touch”, and consequently the reports of abuse, weak management, poorly trained inadequately supervised staff.
The private sector, which was once a choice, is now in many places the only option. It had once offered something different for those who could afford it but now it provides care for all.
So is it finally time to recognise the folly of turning care into a business - and reinvent public sector care?