Care homes raise the alarm

171 care homes from across the region that have been given the green light to carry out renovation have been unable to start due to them not having been given the necessary funding. The care homes say that their residents will face increased charges if they have to pay for the renovation work themselves.

The care homes have sent an open letter expressing their concerns to the Flemish Welfare Minister Jo Vandeurzen (Christian democrat). They are concerned that no funding for renovation and infrastructure work on the region’s care homes has been put aside in the 2015 Flemish budget.

On the contrary, according to the letter, the care sector has to make savings of 182 million euro. The open letter was written by providers from both the public sector (local social services councils) and the not for profit organisations that are part of Zorgnet Vlaanderen.

Last year, the Flemish authorities approved 171 renovation, construction and extension projects with a total cost of 1.034 billion euro. Many homes have already signed contracts with construction companies to carry out the work.

"Residents will have to pay more”

One example is that of the local social services in the East Flemish city of Ghent that had planned to build a new care home for 144 elderly residents.

The total price of the work is estimated at 25 million euro, 9 euro of which Gent Social Services had expected to receive in the form of subsidies from the Flemish authorities. Without the subsidies the price charged to resident will be between 10 and 12 euro/day more the Head of Ghent Social Services Council Ruddy Coddens (socialist) told the VRT.

Zorgnet Vlaanderen says that making residents pay more is a bad thing. The umbrella group that brings together not-for-profit groups involved in providing care to the elderly and the handicapped says that an average pension of 1.107 euro/month is not enough to cover the price of a residential care place at 50.79 euro/day (not including washing, medicines…).

Cuts and European rules

The main reason the care homes are being forced to wait for their money (if indeed they ever get it) is the abolition of the VIPA Fund. VIPA that also was involved in public-private financing schemes was abolished in June of last year under pressure from the European Commission.

The Flemish Government had put expenditure projects in VIPA that were not listed in the budget. The controversial Oosterweel road project in Antwerp was also to have been financed via VIPA. However, unlike the care home investment, Oosterweel has been put into the 2015 budget.

Speaking in an interview with the daily ‘De Morgen’ the Flemish Welfare Minister Jo Vandeurzen said that he would see what could be done for the care homes this year. He also promised that there will be cash available in next year’s budget. Mr Vandeurzen has set up a task force for the development of a new system to provide state support for care home infrastructure investment projects.