Care Home Closures

Part of Question for Urgent Oral Answer — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 30th November 2015.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 3:30 pm, 30th November 2015

I have not yet met Four Seasons. The Department has been aware of issues with Four Seasons for some time and will continue to discuss them with the company on an ongoing basis, particularly the impact of closing the seven homes. The Member is right to highlight the impact that it has on very vulnerable individuals and the concern that that will cause their families; she is also right that it is a particularly difficult time of the year. That is why I want to see my Department working very closely with others in the health and social care family and directly with Four Seasons to ensure that the disruption that there will be is minimised and that people can be accommodated in suitable accommodation as close to their current location as possible.

In answer to the questions about the impact of wages and a shortage of nurses on this decision, I think that it has been minimal. The reality of the situation with this provider is as I have outlined, with well-publicised media reports on its indebtedness and the impact that that is having on its profitability, which gives us some cause for concern.

I do not for a second denigrate or seek to diminish the issues that the Member raises about the availability of nurses or about wages and the impact that a national living wage may have on this and other sectors in health and social care, but the direct impact on this issue has been minimal. What has driven the firm to announce these closures and other closures across the UK is the fact that it is a heavily indebted private company that is having to take these decisions to ensure its longer-term survival.