Following the completion of the first stage of a consultation, the Health and Social Care Board said during its June meeting that it is "firmly committed" to Health Minister Edwin Poots' pledge to allow elderly residents to remain in their homes indefinitely.In April, Mr Poots announced a U-turn on a decision to close statutory homes.It came after a backlash of anger from residents and their families when 18 homes were lined up for closure under the Transforming Your Care initiative.At the minister's request, the Board considered the non-admissions policy of some trusts and recommended that individual positions regarding permanent admissions be reviewed.The final criteria will now be used by Trusts to assist decision making about the role and function of statutory residential care homes in the context of planning suitable services for older people in the future.There will always be a need for some level of residential care but the changing trends and desires of people must be taken into account too as we plan for the future.Fionnuala McAndrew, HSC Board Acting Chief ExecutiveFollowing the meeting, Fionnuala McAndrew, Acting Chief Executive with the Board said: "It is important that Trusts provide the best possible level of care alongside the need to change and modernise their services, if this is required."In our report we have made proposals which have taken account of both of these issues."CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)Mrs McAndrew added: "I recognise that this process has caused anxiety for residents, their families and carers but I hope that the Minister's statements and our commitment to them will provide the reassurance needed to ensure that any future changes can be managed in a way that does not cause any further concerns."Because there is currently significant spare capacity in homes, I am keen to see an expanded role for them - providing respite care and given the current pressures in our hospital system, potential step-down provision following discharge from hospital.Health Minister Edwin PootsResponding to the Board's report, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "In April, I reassured residents that they would remain in their homes for as long as they wished and so long as their needs can continue to be met there."Today, I stand by that reassurance because I appreciate the value of the friendships they have forged, the close connections to family and the community and the quality of care and an attachment to the staff."I have tasked my officials to explore the potential for residential facilities to serve as broader hubs for older people's services."Trade union Unison has called for residential homes to be restored to full capacity.CHAR(13) + CHAR(10) CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)Regional Organiser Joe McCusker said: "Unison will continue to challenge this process at every level, and support all residential homes in building and demonstrating their own vision for their future."It is now clear that there are now and never have been good intentions by those with responsibility and funding for care."