Monday, 1 July 2013

Arthur Clark - doihng all we can for current residents and securing future services for older people in Caversham

I will blog more on this later in the week, but having just got back from committee I wanted to put this on the record straight away.

Rachel Eden’s Speaking Notes Re Arthur Clark Care Home – please check against delivery.

I want to start by thanking the people who are here this evening, representing the campaign to save Arthur Clark.  You have done an excellent job of putting the case for Arthur Clark both in public and in private.

If the decision before us could be made only on the basis of the case you have set out it would be straight-forward.  You have set out clearly why the residents and their families value the service Arthur Clark provides and rightly pointed out the disruption that moves will mean for the current residents.

As councillors we have heard you loud and clear and I think we all agree with much of what you have said.

Arthur Clark does indeed provide a high standard of care, that is highly regarded by residents and their families.  This shines through in the consultation responses and is a tribute to the dedicated staff who work hard every day to ensure that residents are able to enjoy the best possible quality of life.  I would like to put on record my thanks for everything that the staff have achieved.

Unfortunately, we are in the difficult position of having to consider not just these views but also other factors that must be part of the process to make the right decision for residents, their families, future care users and the Reading and Caversham communities.

Although the care provided at Arthur Clark has not been compromised the fact is that under the surface, an independent survey report has concluded that significant work needs to be done to ensure that it remains safe.

While some of this work could be put off for now, it is clear that other repairs cannot wait.  As the independent report points out there is “a high risk of failure which could result in building closure”.

This risk will only increase as time goes by, and it would be completely irresponsible of us as a Council to do nothing and face an emergency situation in the future when, instead of a planned and managed move we would be forced to put frail elderly residents through an emergency closure.

I think we have all found trying to make a decision here difficult.  However I know I could not look residents and their families in the eye if in 6 or 12 or 18 months time, possibly in the middle of winter, we were faced with an unplanned emergency closure because the plumbing has failed or the roof has collapsed.  According to the independent report these are very real possibilities.

The risk of this will only increase as time passes.  Putting off this decision would be risky and will become more risky. It would be highly irresponsible to put this off, which is why I believe that the option of ceasing new admissions and waiting for residents to move on to other care is not appropriate.  This option would also damage the current community atmosphere that is so important and valued by residents. 

With the presence of asbestos and the scale of the work required we have been clearly advised that it is just not possible to do the work while the residents remain there, particularly some of the most urgent work related to the plumbing.

This means that we will have to move residents out.

However I am clear that in taking a decision to do this as Councillors, and as the public we will want to be assured that we are able to do this in a way which takes account of the needs and wishes of residents, provides the sort of care we would all wish for and that disruption is managed down to a minimum.  The advice is clear that two moves would be more detrimental than a single move.

I have looked at the case for upgrade and the case for closure very carefully. 

We could do the minimum refurbishment consistent with safety but I believe that to miss the opportunity to improve the physical facilities in line with the standard of care - with 5 residents per toilet, small rooms and small communal facilities - would not serve the aspirations of this council, future generations or staff to provide homes in buildings that are as high quality as the care provided.

Another option to consider is to do a more substantial refurbishment of Arthur Clark as a care home.  Again this would involve two moves but in order to achieve this it would also mean that the number of rooms would fall and so the number of residents at Arthur Clark would become very small and no longer a viable community.

I have concluded therefore that closure as a care home is the only option that we can take as a responsible council.

It would be possible to close and not say anything about the future of the site, which is the remaining option in the report.  However it is clear to me that residents would wish this site to continue to be used to provide facilities for older people. 

I will say more about this in a moment but first we cannot and must not forget that moves will have an impact on the current residents.

With that in mind I am proposing that the moves must be based on individual need.  Some residents need to move to nursing or dementia care, because their needs have changed, and others can move to alternative residential accommodation.  Whatever their need, I want all residents to have the choice of an en-suite room. I also propose that we authorise officers to mitigate the social, emotional and financial impact for residents on an individual basis.  This could involve arranging trial visits to alternative care homes; support with transport for regular visitors; and other support based on individual requests.

For those who fund their own care, we should find ways to support them by mitigating the financial impact.  This could include using the Council’s commissioning relationships with care homes within Reading to negotiate down the costs.

We should also support groups of friends to move together where they wish to do so.

Regarding the staff, we should do everything possible to reduce the need for redundancies through offering alternative employment and by encouraging those care home where resident move, where appropriate and desired, to consider employing these dedicated staff who have been so effective in supporting Arthur Clark residents.  I think officers will take the spirit of this as well as the wording to reflect that councillors want everything to be done to support residents

Looking to the future though the demographic predictions and trends in services for Reading and the Caversham area suggest that there will be a future need for extra-care housing.  The council has an outstanding commitment to seek sites for this.

Extra care housing is housing that allows residents to live as independently as they can with more support and care provided when and if they need it.  This can range from residents who have no support needs to those who require 24-hour support.

The most recent extra-care housing in the borough is at Oak Tree House,  West Reading.  No site has previously been identified north of the river but I believe that the future for the Arthur Clark site should be for extra care.  Those who live in Caversham should have the opportunity to feel like Mrs Muriel Cook who moved into Oak Tree House last year and said:  “We are thrilled to bits with our new home and can’t believe how lucky we are to be living here.”
Extra care housing can also include facilities for elderly people in the local community.
More work is needed to ensure that we can deliver extra care housing including asking the Policy Committee to take this forward.  But all those who have offered to seek funding and partnerships whether from the department of health, the homes and communities agency, benefactors, housing associations and, I hope, that many of those here tonight will support this.


I hope that everyone on this committee can support this, as a way of continuing Arthur Clark’s tradition of providing excellent care for elderly people but in a modern building that will meet the needs of elderly residents well into the 21st Century.