A West Midlands care group is looking to expand its portfolio of residential homes in a new project for people with challenging behaviour.
Halesowen-based Carlton Care, which operates residential and nursing homes from Devon through to the Black Country, is seeking properties in the Midlands for the venture and has not ruled out a rescue deal for a struggling existing home if a suitable operation is found.
The company, which runs 11 homes and a consultancy, saved the Castle Nursing Home in Torrington, Devon, last year.
Three years ago it rescued the 35-bed Poplars Nursing Home in South Road, Smethwick, from being shut down.
Speaking at the group's headquarters in Grange Hill House, Bromsgrove Road, Hunnington, Tony Billingham, who has a 50 per cent shareholding with partner Carole Jenkins, said: "There is a Government policy, which sounds wonderful, to keep all of our elderly and emotionally dislocated people at home in family environments.
"I applaud that sentiment, but in the real world, there is not sufficient funding to do such a job.
"No amount of tax levy could provide funds for 24-hour home care for the majority of our frail, elderly population.
"On top of that, we have to consider other special needs which, in our opinion, also demand round- the- clock attention.
"Challenging behaviour across all ages is underresourced and we are looking to develop Carlton in this emerging marketplace.
"It is tragic that cities like Birmingham have lost a third of their care facilities.
"But what is more disturbing, is that financially struggling bespoke homes are lost to building giants, which very often can out-bid private sector operators.
"When we took on the Smethwick and Torrington nursing homes, we believed it was as much a moral decision as a business one.
"Care homes are disappearing - there are closures across the country every week - and we consider the provision of residential care for both the young and old a barometer of how civilised our society is."
Mr Billingham, who is president of the Quintonbased West Midlands Care Association, one of the largest lobbying organisations within the industry, added that a poor public image of residential care had fuelled the impetus to bring more care into the community.
"I fear for the future of some of our elderly and marginalised people.
"Europe is a model of 'careat- home' provision, but whereas the social profile seems excellent, it masks terrible family tensions," he said.
Mr Billingham added the headline-making BBC One drama, Dad, did no favours for the care sector, but it did clearly raise the profile of elder abuse when sons and daughters had to learn to live once again with parents they had moved away from more than 30 years ago.
"Of course, everyone should be able to stay in the community or in sheltered housing for as long as they can, but not at the expense of dignified care, social isolation or family harmony. This is the price the Government does not want to expose.
"The media in recent years has, in some cases, quite rightly slated residential care provision.
"I believe it will not be too long before some of the abuse and heartache of community care packages - now flavour of the month - will also be making headlines."
Mrs Jenkins added: "We have a wealth of experience in looking after the elderly and mentally ill.
"It is an exciting prospect to extend the Carlton remit and embrace the care of those with challenging behaviour."