Commenting on the Prime Minister’s response to Michael Fabricant’s question today (Wednesday 25th July 2007) on the closure of Staffordshire residential care homes and day centres in the next two years, Michael says: "It is clear that despite my briefing Tony Blair’s aide yesterday, Tony Blair still does not realise the seriousness of the situation. Moving elderly people will cost lives. The closure of care homes should be phased in over a number of years or not be initiated at all. The County has told care home staff that the closures will be complete by 2009 despite the sham consultation process. This is far too fast.
"I will take up the Prime Minister’s offer and arrange a meeting with the appropriate minister and local carers. I will also be initiating a full Parliamentary debate on this subject to enable other Staffordshire MPs to participate and make their views known. For the sake of care home residents, their relatives, carers, and the staff who work in these homes, this fight to oppose closure must go on."
The exchange between Michael Fabricant and the Prime Minister is shown below.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Before I list my engagements, let me say that, sadly, I am sure the whole House will wish once again to join me in sending our profound condolences to the families and friends of Corporal Ben Leaning and Trooper Kristen Turton of The Queen’s Royal battlegroup, who were killed in Iraq last Thursday, and Kingsman Alan Jones of the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, killed in Iraq on Monday. Those young men were brave and committed soldiers; they died in the service of their country, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): The whole House will wish to join the Prime Minister in offering condolences to the families of the brave soldiers who lost their lives, and will also be joyful in welcoming back the Staffordshire Regiment, which has just returned from Iraq.
Despite claims that a full consultation is taking place in Staffordshire, Labour-controlled Staffordshire county council has announced the closure of all residential care homes and day centres within the next two years. We recognise that change must come about, but it should be phased in over time. Many elderly people are worried about their future and have no relatives to look after them. What can the Prime Minister do to ensure that, in Staffordshire at least, this change is phased in gradually over time?
The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman is aware that there have been meetings between my hon. Friend the care services Minister and local Members of Parliament, and I am happy to facilitate a similar meeting between the Minister and the hon. Gentleman. In fairness to Staffordshire council, it does understand that this has to be done in a planned and careful way. As I understand it, what it is trying to do is move from the current situation whereby it has responsibility for about 4,000 people, of whom about 10 per cent. are in its residential care homes. It wants to move those people into the independent sector and to improve community services, and it is willing to invest an extra £19 million to do that. It is important that the consultation is undertaken properly, and it has listened carefully to the representations that have been made. As the hon. Gentleman implied in his question, it also believes that it is right to make these changes in the interests of elderly people and those in residential care homes, but, of course, that must be done with a great deal of care.