In my statement to the House on 19 March 2013, I advised Members of the outcome of the consultation exercise on the proposals in ‘Transforming Your Care: Vision to Action’ and confirmed that there would be no major service change without further specific consultation where appropriate. The Health and Social Care Board-led consultation on the criteria against which statutory residential homes will be evaluated is planned to take place between October 2013 and March 2014. The views of residents and their families will be central in the consideration of the future role of statutory residential homes for older people. There will be a further period of public consultation once the trusts have assessed statutory residential care provision against the final agreed criteria.
It is very much in my interest to ensure that it does not happen again. When I heard that there was a proposal to close all the residential care homes, it came as a surprise to me. However, I have argued consistently that people are in residential care homes because there has been a needs assessment that has identified that those people need support and care, which is why they have arrived in a residential care home. Therefore, I do not think that it is appropriate to look at a facility but rather at an individual in a facility, and support that person's needs. If that person's needs are best supported in the residential care home where he or she currently lives, we should seek to support him or her in that home.
The trusts have policies, and we see a different perspective between existing residents and the broader population. As we consider the issue, we need to separate out the group of individuals who are currently in care homes and are content there, and the broader number who tell us, in consultation after consultation, that that is not the type of care that they want and that they want to be with their families. Some people who are currently in care homes want to remain there, and we need to respect their wishes.
Those who call for admissions to be permitted to all homes overestimate the demand for new admissions to statutory homes. In the entire Western Trust area, for example, throughout which admissions still freely occur, only 17 people were admitted to statutory homes over 2012-13. That is around a fifth of the older people who were placed in independent care homes, which was around 80%. So, even with some trusts not taking new admissions, there is a lot of capacity across the sectors. The new model of provision is not peculiar to Northern Ireland. Indeed, Northern Ireland has more statutory provision than the rest of the UK. In England, for example, over-65s cared for in residential homes account for around 8·3%, and in Scotland, they account for 11·7%. No comparable data are available for Wales on the people in adult care homes or placement homes in local authorities.
The Minister has refused to comment on the non-admission policy to statutory residential homes in some trusts such as the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, but does he not agree that continuing a non-admission policy makes the new consultation process meaningless? It seems that there is closure by stealth, and that, after the public furore last time round, there is actually no change.
It may be that, at the conclusion of the public consultation, they decide to remove that. That is something that people can discuss during the process. I should remind the Member that we are in a transitional period. We want to get to the point where older people who require more care are given more support in their home or in supported-living facilities where they have more independence. That will mean some reduction in the provision of residential care, but we need to ensure that residential care, where that is necessary, is available for our elderly population. They must always be treated with respect.
I listened very carefully to the Minister, and I am encouraged by what he said. He will understand that there is a very emotive history of evictions and things like that. For the record, perhaps for the last time, will he give a guarantee that no elderly person will be forced from their present residential home and sent somewhere that they do not wish to go?
It is not my intention to evict any elderly person who is currently in residential care. I want to ensure that all elderly people are treated with dignity and respect, that they are treated as adults in the decision-making process and that people do not talk down to them. I think that we all have a vested interest in ensuring that we take care of the elderly because, all being well, we will be elderly ourselves some day, and we will want to be treated with the respect that I just outlined.