Edinburgh care home closures: cross-party talks for full public consultation
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Talks with trade unions and a consultation with stakeholders are currently under way and a decision on the closures has been postponed until next month.
But councillors from across the political spectrum say the Edinburgh public should also be asked their views on what would be a major change in care provision.
The issue is expected to be discussed at Tuesday's meeting of Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB), which oversees health and social care in the Capital.
However, a report for the meeting reveals officials have been discussing whether there is any obligation to consult the public and legal advice is being taken.
Lib Dem councillor Robert Aldridge, a member of the EIJB, said: "It sounds as if they don't know whether they are required by law to have a public consultation. I think the question should be different: should we be holding a consultation?
"To get buy-in from the public to a long-term strategy for care it makes sense to hear what people have to say.
"A consultation would also help people to understand why it is being proposed because I think there is a big job to be done by the EIJB to clarify why it's happening.
"It's quite a big complicated thing about people staying at home longer with care packages and a lot more support in the community and we need to be clear its all fits together."
But he said the board would need to pay heed to the results of the consultation.
"The record of the council in consultations is to have lots of them and not necessarily to listen to what people say."
Under proposals announced in June, Clovenstone, Ford’s Road, Jewel House and Ferrylee homes, whose buildings are all judged to fall below standard, would close completely and Drumbrae care home would be switched to medical care.
Another board member, Tory councillor Phil Doggart, also backed a full public consultation.
"Given the significance of the changes to the care homes it would be very useful to know what the city and the full range of care providers .
is a good outcome,” he said.
"We're talking about issues that are going to affect people who aren't yet in care homes but will be in care homes in the near future and it would be really useful to understand what their families think about the issues."
Green councillor Melanie Main, who is also on the board, said there was no doubt care services needed investment, updating and improvements.
"Consulting with the public, particularly those who need support and their carers and families, is absolutely key to providing the best possible services in the right place, at the right time in communities across Edinburgh. I would expect that the project team will consult with the public to help design services before bringing proposals to the board."
The SNP and Labour, who run the council administration, are also expected to back a public consultation.
The SNP's George Gordon, a member of the board, said: "With all areas of council responsibility, public engagement is key to making sure the right decisions are made."
And Labour group leader Cammy Day said: "There is a difference between whether you have to do it or whether you just should do it and we have consulted on lesser things. It's most important we engage with the residents and their families but I have no issues with us having a wide-ranging consultation, including residents, families, the trade unions and anyone else who would be interested."
Unions are campaigning against the closures and for continued public sector provision. Unison branch secretary Tom Connelly said: “We want as wide a consultation with the public as possible – if I end up in a care home I want it to be well-built, functional, with well-paid, well-trained staff and not being run for profit.”