To ask the First Minister what comparison has been made in terms of value for money between offering financial support to the Church of Scotland to keep care homes open and finding alternative accommodation for residents affected by the closure of Church of Scotland homes. (S2F-130)
We do not want to see the unnecessary closure of good-quality care homes. I hope that negotiations between local authorities, which have a duty to provide best value, and the Church of Scotland will ensure that older people's care needs continue to be met in appropriate settings.
Does the First Minister agree that it is most unfortunate that the Church of Scotland, which is the one organisation that did not go in for brinkmanship by threatening not to take new residents, should be hit in such a way? The two Church of Scotland homes in my constituency, Achvarasdale House and Oversteps Eventide Home in Dornoch, are faced with closure, which is terrible for the residents. Does the First Minister agree that it would be best if the appropriate officials and representatives of local government and the kirk got round the table and sorted out the problem?
It would be helpful if Highland Council and the Church of Scotland had such a discussion. I am pleased that Jamie Stone helped me with the pronunciation of the home in
Does the First Minister agree that the situation in which the Church of Scotland finds itself is only the tip of the iceberg of the issue of care home accommodation? Given that local authorities such as South Ayrshire Council are trying to get out of providing such services directly, the question is who will be left to provide such care if action is not taken urgently to ensure that appropriate financial arrangements are put in place. What action is the Executive taking to ensure that there are enough care home places for those who will need them in the future?
The Executive is taking a considerable amount of action, not only in financing existing care home places, but in subsidising the creation of new care home places. Since July 2001, we have provided £130 million to the sector and there will be considerable additional finance in the years to come. We engage constantly in negotiations to reach agreement on the appropriate level of fees so that we do not pay more than required and simply line the pockets of others and so that we can ensure that care home places are properly funded and can be filled.
A combination of services provided by local authorities, by the Church of Scotland and other voluntary providers and by the private sector should be decided at a local level in a way that is most appropriate for the local community and people in the area. That is by far the best way forward. The matter cannot be set out in great detail and determined at a national level; it is right for local authorities to take the lead and for us to provide additional funding. Everybody should be involved in the discussions to secure the best possible way of providing care home places in the future.