§ Mr. Benton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance he issues to local authorities on criteria to be satisfied before a decision is taken to close a care home; if he will assess the extent to which the criteria were satisfied in the recent decision by Sefton Council to close Connolly House and Linacre Grange, Bootle; if he will re-examine the criteria; and if he will ask Sefton Council to reconsider its decision. 360W
§ Dr. Ladyman
[holding answer 10 May 2004]: Local councils are responsible for arranging and delivering services that will meet the assessed needs of their local populations. It is for each council to decide which services they should provide in order to meet those needs. In so doing, they are under an obligation to act reasonably.
If it becomes necessary to close a care home, councils, acting both as commissioners and providers, should seek to achieve this in a planned way. There are a number of court decisions which set out the nature of councils' obligations towards residents in care homes which councils must have regard to. One of these obligations is to consult residents on any proposed closure.
The Government are concerned that any decision to close a home is handled as sensitively and appropriately as possible, but are limited in the extent to which they can intervene in local decisions. Councils are obliged to comply with statutory obligations and relevant case law. When a home does have to close, the essential thing is that proper arrangements are made for the safe and satisfactory transfer of all residents to other suitable homes. There should be adequate time for this to be done, in a way that allows both residents and their relatives a choice in where they are to move to and which creates the minimum possible discomfort to all concerned.
The Secretary of State does not intervene in decisions of this nature at local level. The relevant legislation and the Secretary of State's Approvals and Directions set out the extent of council's obligations to provide services to persons in their area. The council has statutory obligations to meet the needs of any residents it has placed in these homes, and if the homes are closed, it must ensure that those obligations are fulfilled in some other way. It must also comply with its obligations to consult all residents and to take into account their views. It is a matter for all councils to ensure that they comply with their legal obligations. If they do not, this may be challenged through local complaints procedures, the commissioner for local administration, and through the courts.