I WAS interested to read in this paper that a private care home is to be built on the site of the County Council’s former care home Langrigg House, in Morton, Carlisle.

In 2016, Carlisle Socialist Party organised a public campaign against the council’s plan to close three of its homes in Carlisle and four in West Cumbria, and eventually replace them with two new ones, but with only 120 places instead of 257, claiming this was because there was little demand for care home places as people preferred to remain in their own homes and receive “care in the community”.

Of course elderly people and their families would rather stay in their own homes, but for many, there comes a point when care at home is not practical, and the council was also running down its own home care service and outsourcing it to private providers.

We knew from personal experience that the “lack of demand” argument was preposterous, confirmed by families who came to our campaign stalls and told us their elderly relatives had been turned away from Langrigg House and other homes, long before the closure plans were announced, so the council could claim they were under-occupied.

The real reason for the closures, and other cuts in vital services, was to save money, as demanded by the Tory government’s austerity programme. The council could have explained this to the people of Cumbria and led a fight against it, but instead, it dressed up the cuts as “progress”, to meet higher standards of accommodation and provide a more appropriate service.

While welcoming any genuine improvement in care home standards, we pointed out that an ageing population would create even more demand, including for respite care and discharged hospital patients, which the existing homes had provided, but the replacements were not designed for.

And that as well as getting rid of more than half of the care home beds.

The two new homes would each serve a wider area, taking residents out of their own local community and making relatives travel further to visit them.

Our petition, signed by 1,500 people, was presented in November 2016 to the council’s cabinet member for health and care services, then Labour’s Beth Furneaux.

During the hospitals campaign in 2017, we continued to argue that the loss of care home beds would contribute to the crisis in the supposedly “integrated” health and social care services.

When the new home at Burnrigg Court in Carlisle was officially opened in July, 2019, we repeated these points, and the then cabinet member for health and care, the Lib-Dem's Patricia Bell, denounced them as “complete and utter rubbish”, saying that the Socialists “have failed to remember . . . that demand for residential care has gone down”.

If that is the case, why is a private care home to be built on the very site where Langrigg House once stood (within a couple of hundred yards of Burnrigg Court), not with 44 beds, but with 80?

There is of course, no real “lack of demand”, but most of “the supply” has been privatised, so that huge sums of money will be handed over by old people, their families, and the council, to private companies aiming to make a profit.

Against this, the Socialist Party is calling on the council to build two new publicly owned care homes, one in Carlisle and one in West Cumbria, to restore the lost capacity, and also to reward long-suffering care staff with a 15 per cent pay rise and training to attract more carers.

Grahame Higginson

Denton Holme