Are we heading for a care home beds crisis in St Albans?

A nursing home

A nursing home - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A pledge to champion the need for more socially-funded care beds for the elderly in the district has been made by a concerned district councillor.

It follows a report into an application by Signature Homes to build an 81-bed care home in London Road, St Albans, which said there was a shortage of privately-funded beds in the district.

But it transpired that there was only a shortage of one privately-funded bed in the district and the shortfall was in the number of socially-funded beds for people who do not have the means to pay for themselves.

Cllr Robert Donald, who called in the Signature Homes application for a decision by a planning committee which turned it down, has now held discussions with the council’s spatial planning manager Chris Briggs to try and get the need for more socially-funded beds incorporated into the review of housing need in the draft planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

Cllr Donald explained: “We have got to get a policy in the new SLP about care home beds for elderly people in the district so we have a balance between private and socially funded.”

He said Mr Briggs accepted that if the figures were in line with the county council’s baseline Flexicare report, he would be prepared to take the issue to the planning policy committee.

Cllr Donald would also like to see some kind of policy introduced which would compel private care homes to provide some socially-funded beds in the same way as affordable housing has to be incorporated in major housing schemes.

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The alternative, he pointed out, was that people who had lived in the district all their lives but needed socially-funded care would have to move elsewhere.

“If you haven’t got money, you are at the mercy of the county council and why should you have to leave St Albans for somewhere like Welwyn Hatfield?”

Cllr Donald said that as the situation stood currently, elderly people needing care were being forced out of the district in the same way as young people had to move to cheaper areas to buy their first home.

He added: “At both ends of the spectrum you are being forced out whether or not you have been born and bred in St Albans.”