MO: THE WOMAN IN THE KNOW: Leave Homes alone.(Features)

Article excerpt

Byline: Mo Mowlam

IN the last few years one of the most dramatic changes I have seen along the front in Redcar, which used to be my constituency and where I still live a lot of the time, has been the closure of old people's homes.

A lot of the large Victorian houses with views over the sea had become home to many old people. Today they are boarded up.

The problem facing many old people was highlighted last week by the death of Alice Knight. She was the 108-year-old who was moved from Flordon House in Norwich, where she had lived happily for seven years, when it closed. She was so unhappy that she went on hunger strike to show the plight of many old people. She died on June 13.

This is a tragic individual story, but unfortunately there is no easy solution to this problem. With the introduction of stricter regulations regarding all aspects of running such homes - from the size of rooms, mattresses, and the 94-page building regulations - costs have inevitably risen for those who own and run them. This has resulted in the loss of 500,000 places in the last five years.

Added to this, it is estimated that in many cases the amount paid by social services of between pounds 75 and pounds 85 per week is insufficient to meet the cost of care and accommodation. This has led some to argue that those who have to sell their own house to pay for care - which is about 80,000 people a year - are subsidising those paid for by the State. …