(an article published in SPAG's Newsletter for March 2005)
In last month’s Newsletter, we reported on Southwark’s bid for a share of the £40 million of government money available in the coming year for building extra care housing for older people - homes where privacy and independence are combined with the provision of care services.
On 23rd February, Stephen Ladyman, the Health Minister for Community, announced the winning bids. Over the whole country, more than 140 bids had been received for a total of £317 million, or eight times the amount of money available. Only 21 bids succeeded, for the provision of 979 homes - none of them in Southwark - despite the fact that “the overall quality of the bids this year was very good” and “the Minister was impressed with the innovative approaches being taken”.
A quarter of the £40 million is going to one project - an extra care retirement village in Hartlepool, including a park and a healthy living suite for local people and offering a mix of renting, shared ownership and outright sale.
We know that Stephen Ladyman, who spoke at a SPAG meeting last year, is very keen on the development of extra care housing, but he has clearly failed to persuade the Treasury to back his enthusiasm with the necessary funds. In fact, only £60 million of government money is to be made available for the two years 2006-08, so progress over that period is likely to be even slower unless other sources of funding can be found.
Southwark Council, we are assured, has not given up hope of finding such sources, and we can only hope they will succeed, but the prospects hardly seem rosy. SPAG will be writing to Dr Ladyman, expressing our disappointment, not just with the failure of Southwark’s bid but with the Government’s failure to put its money (which, of course, means our money) where its mouth is.
Last month we quoted from a letter we had received from the Department of Health, confirming the government’s intention that “extra care housing should become the dominant form of housing, care and support for older people over the next 20 years.” But good intentions are not enough. We want to know how they will be put into practice.