THE POST DEBATE: Is It Going to Be a Cruise or a Care Home for You? Are Pensioners Better off in Their Own Homes or in Care? Health Reporter Emma Brady Looks at the Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: Emma Brady

It is a fact that Birmingham's elderly population is set to double in size by the year 2024.

Coupled with the news the city's social services has been classified as failing its most vulnerable citizens, concern has been expressed in some quarters for the level of care the elderly receive.

Last month a draft consultation document detailed plans to reduce spending on residential and nursing homes from 68 per cent to 30 per cent of the social services department's budget.

To counter this move, the amount spent by social services on supporting community care would increase from 23 per cent to 45 per cent of the budget by 2010.

This would mean about pounds 30 million to help thousands of elderly people continue to live independently in their own homes, rather than be taken into care.

It would also dramatically shift the emphasis away from residential homes, which currently receive nearly 70 per cent of the social services budget for 4,000 placements, while the remainder is spent on 10,400 community care packages.

Earlier this month, a 94year-old widow forced to stay in hospital for four months was highlighted in The Birmingham Post as the human face of the funding crisis.

Martha Finch, who had fully recovered after breaking her leg in a fall, was keen to return to her home in Perry Beeches.

Instead, she became victim of social services' overspending which meant there was no money available to provide the morning and evening home checks she required from care workers under Government guidelines to enable her to go back to her house.

The current financial bias towards care homes appears to favour the minority who are happy to live in care homes.

Peter Hay, director of social services at Birmingham City Council, said he believed improving staff morale and training would be the key to future improvement in the department. …