The government had de-regulated private residential care homes and decreed that state benefits could be used to pay for care in private homes as well as council-run homes. If a home had only three residents, it didn’t even have to register as a care home. Private sector homes were visited just once a year by council officers, whereas the Council’s homes were visited monthly by a panel of councillors on a rota basis.
Kath Robinson, Chair of Social Services Committee and her deputy – Paul Clarke – felt very strongly that private care homes should be treated the same as Council care homes (this view was shared by the Council’s legal officers) and should be visited by councillors as part of their ‘duty of care’. The legal view was, however, that it would be open to legal challenge. Kath’s view was “let the private homes challenge us”.
Aranmore was a private care home in Didsbury and was visited one Friday evening at 7pm by a Labour councillor (Ken Strath), a Liberal councillor (Audrey Greaves) and a council officer. The owners were not happy about the visit, but Audrey Greaves insisted on them allowing them in. They found two old ladies sharing one room and smelling strongly of urine. The home was given a warning of unsatisfactory care and the owner was invited in to the Council to have the situation explained in order to ensure that if the case went to court things had been done properly.
However, the Leader of the Liberal Group (Audrey Jones) who was closely involved with the local South Manchester Reporter newspaper had all the information published in the paper in order to get publicity for the Liberals. Audrey Greaves publicly commented on the case (which she shouldn’t have done) but Kath Robinson didn’t respond to the journalist’s enquiries and the paper stated that “she had refused to comment”. Kath went to the press council to complain about the journalist having printed the article without verification from the appropriate person. The national press then got hold of the story and the owner of Aranmore was understandably furious.
The Liberals had tried to use the issue to demonstrate Labour’s incompetence, but the intention had been to treat private sector homes for the elderly in the same way as those in the public sector and the Liberals behaviour had prevented any future co-operation from the private sector.
Text unedited from Kath’s version. This Appendix relates to Chapter 2.