North Yorkshire County Council considers building own care homes

County Hall, Northallerton.

A local authority facing intense financial pressures over soaring care home costs has revealed how it is considering launching its own homes for vulnerable people after struggling to find firms to provide care across vast majority of England’s largest county.

North Yorkshire County Council’s care and independence scrutiny committee heard demand had outstripped supply in the care market to an extent that firms were now “writing their own cheques” and rejecting work even when the authority offered to pay £30 an hour for nursing.

Such is the severity of the shortage in supply of care in some areas that at any one point the authority has up to 20 places where it had to send in its own staff to provide care, members were told.

The meeting was shown a map of the county where vast tracts, including the whole of the Yorkshire Dales and even some areas close to large urban populations, such as York, Scarborough and Harrogate, where the council found it “very difficult” to find care providers.

heard the council was reviewing ways in which it could intervene in the adult social care market as the authority is forecasting a £5m overspend on the service this year, despite pumping an increasing share of its dwindling budget into the area.

Councillors were told historically access to care provision had been good across the county, but recent years had seen numerous care homes in the county close.

The authority’s assistant director of care and support, Dale Owens, said it was becoming increasingly difficult to provide care in the largely rural county as providers wanted to travel less and were “retreating back to market towns”.

He said: “That’s predominantly because travel costs money and that inflates the cost for providers of being able to deliver that care.”

Mr Owens said the council believed the social care market was overheating in some areas of the county, and in particular Harrogate, and the authority would use its purchasing power to reduce the cost or develop services itself.

He said the authority was also examining the demand for care in each area in an attempt to promote the opportunities to care firms, to boost possible supply and competition to drive down care prices.

Councillors said the large areas where the county found it difficult to source care highlighted the distances that many North Yorkshire residents had to move from their homes at the end of the lives to have care.

They questioned whether it had been a mistake by the authority to allow care homes to close.

Councillor Stanley Lumley said: “I think it’s a real shame that this has happened. We had a good care home in Pateley Bridge that served the whole of Nidderdale, but it was an old building and not up to current standards.

“Perhaps it was a false economy of allow that to go to the wall and then have the great expense of going into Harrogate with those inflated prices. I think now has come the point when we should be investing in a provision of our own so we can focus the minds of these other providers to say there is an alternative and the time has come to stop over-charging.”