Northern Ireland: Stop the closures of care homes

56 care homes under threat

Elderly residents at 56 public care homes face being thrown out of their homes as a result of Health Minister Edwin Poots health cuts and privatisation plans. Earlier this year, Poots and all politicians in the Assembly were rocked by the outcry of opposition to plans to close care homes, but now Poots is trying to close care homes again.

The closure of care homes is a result of the Budget of austerity passed by the political parties in Stormont. All the parties in the Executive support Transform Your Care – a policy to make deep cuts to our health service and hand over services – such as care homes to private companies out to make profits.

Socialist Party campaigning against closures of care homes

If it were not for the protests by residents, relatives and care home staff Poots had got it his way earlier this year. 28 care homes would now be closed with the loss of 800 places, and plans to close all 56 care homes over five years, would have been forced through with no consultation with staff, residents or family. It was their strength of opposition along with widespread public support that stopped Poots and the Assembly Executive in their tracks.

Poots and John Compton, Chief Executive of the Health Board, have been forced to admit the “handling of care homes was a disaster”, but they remain unrepentant about implementing wholesale closures. Poots has made it clear the consultation will not prevent his plans to close homes and Compton has refused to give assurances to residents that they will not be moved to facilitate closures. The Health Board has initiated a project team of senior managers from across all the Health Trusts to ensure their plans are carried out without a hitch this time.

This consultation is a sham and residents, families and staff should have no faith in it. Its purpose is to legitimise the Assembly Executive’s plans to close all health service residential homes in favour of privately-run profit driven care homes. Private healthcare employers are currently working hard with the Assembly Executive in taking over essential homecare services. Compton has more or less admitted that all new “independent living accommodation” will be run by the private sector that will have to be paid for by the residents or their families.

A campaign to keep open all the residential homes can still be won. The Assembly Executive is seriously weakened and local MLAs and councillors are coming under immense pressure to support residents and families. Widespread public support is fully behind keeping the homes open and retained within the health service. Unfortunately as we have seen before, the politicians will likely try to force people to accept that closures must be made somewhere. This can be prevented if residents and staff of all homes are united and stand together.

We need jobs – not austerity and sectarianism

The main political parties are incapable of delivering for working class people. Their austerity policies are destroying services and sucking money out of the economy causing more job losses. Youth unemployment is soaring and emigration is on the rise. The main parties are also responsible for whipping up sectarianism – resulting in violent clashes and even further division of working class people. We need a new mass party to fight for the common interests of the working class people – Catholic & Protestant.

  • Scrap ’Transform your care’
  • No privatisation of services
  • Fight the Assembly’s health cuts
  • Investment needed not austerity
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