Campaign to defend elderly care
Raging against homes sell off
NEW LABOUR'S privatisation drive is leading to the slaughter of homes for the elderly. That was the message from a 130-strong conference in Birmingham on Saturday of last week called by RAGE (Residents' Action Group for the Elderly), which is fighting to stop privatisation and closures.
Councils, which are mainly Labour run, are shutting old people's homes or handing them to private firms. The policy terrifies many elderly people. They can be forced to move into a different home, separated from the friends and carers they have been with for years.
Birmingham's Labour-run council is spearheading the attack. It plans to sell off all 30 homes, affecting 985 people. Some 90 percent of residents are over 75 years old.
The trauma of moving can devastate them. The council shut one home in Birmingham for younger residents. Within nine months over 50 percent of them had died. The council has already closed four homes in recent years. In one, Bourne House, the council boarded up the windows with the residents still inside. Local residents, relatives and members of the council workers' UNISON union were so angry about the closures that they set up the RAGE campaign.
Dorothy Chambers is a RAGE activist. She said, "The local Balsall Heath community is keyed up to save the Clifton House home. We stopped it from being closed three years ago, and we've had to mobilise the community and involve residents again."
"It makes you angry and determined to fight," said Caroline Johnson, a local RAGE campaigner and social services worker. Caroline is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the forthcoming general election in the Birmingham Perry Barr constituency. She said, "My nan is in a home in Essex. The council is trying to privatise that too. People in suits behind closed doors are deciding the future of our public services. We are determined not to let big business take over homes in Birmingham. Around 25 people from an over-60s club brought traffic to a standstill recently and had huge public support."
The conference launched RAGE as a national campaign, with activists from across Britain attending. People came from Havering, east London, where the council wants to shut six homes. It will mean reducing the number of residential places from 240 to just 60.
David Atkins, whose father is in one of the homes, said, "They tell you if you're lucky they will move your relative to another home, which will then close in seven months time. "Five homes have been closed in the last year. We have campaigned and brought the centre of Romford to a standstill." Campaigners from Rochdale spoke about the council's plans to close seven homes, affecting around 250 people.
"The plans were first announced in August. There was a public outcry, so they introduced a review. But this is just a delaying tactic," said Christina, one of the campaigners.
Peter Monk was one of the residents who attended the conference. He came from Granby Way home in Plymouth. He said, "They want to shut two homes in Plymouth. They say they are not up to standard, but I live in one of the homes and it's perfect." Two Plymouth residential homes workers, Sarah Piney and Margaret Hicks, joined the residents at the conference.
They were members of the GMB union who had joined the recent demonstrations and strikes in Plymouth against council cuts. Margaret said, "I am worried about losing my job, but it's really the clients-they are losing their homes. I've worked in the private sector and I didn't like it. There is not the same level of care and staffing levels."
THERE WERE 134,500 beds directly provided by the local authorities in 1980. Last year that figure had gone down to just 59,200.
- The provision of long term healthcare is worth 5.39 billion a year to the private sector.
- The private sector already owns 40 percent of homes.
- Some 37 local authorities plan to sell off 77 homes over the next three years, according to a survey by accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
'We'll stop the city'
CAMPAIGNERS PLAN to cause major disruption on a key road into Birmingham during the morning rush hour next week. Residents, relatives and supporters aim to occupy a pedestrian crossing on the A38 road and leaflet the cars in protest at the five elderly people's homes in Northfield due to be privatised.
Clive Walder, the Socialist Alliance candidate who is standing in the local constituency, backs the action. "We'll Stop The City" was the headline in the Evening Mail, which carried a front page article on Friday of last week on the planned protest.
- Protest, Tuesday 27 March, 8am, outside Bacons, Northfield shopping centre.