THERE are fears that more than 100 elderly Ilkeston residents could be made homeless as a care home firm struggles to pay huge debts.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to intervene as Southern Cross Healthcare, which runs Victoria Park, Cedars and Larches, and Ladywood care homes, as well as 752 other homes across the UK, faces bankruptcy.
The Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), which owns the care homes, could then repossess them, which could see thousands of vulnerable pensioners needing to be re-housed
Ken Holland’s father Jack, 102, has lived at Ladywood Care Home in Kirk Hallam for three years. He said nobody from the home had been in touch about the situation and he would be ‘very concerned’ if his dad was forced to find a new home.
“He has a ground floor flat there so he doesn’t have to use stairs – that might change if he had to move,” he said. “He has a favourite table where he eats his lunch with his friends and a favourite chair where he sits and rests – it would not be easy for him to change all that.
“My wife and I visited a lot of care homes before we found one that was suitable for him. Doing it all again would not be good for him.”
The GMB union, which represents more than 100 staff facing redundancy at the Ilkeston care homes, has claimed QIA is charging ‘sky high rents’ of up to £60 per week per bed and ‘channelling’ the cash to offshore tax havens in the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands.
GMB organiser Martin Mcginley, said: “It is time for the QIA to clear up the financial mess that it and the private equity industry created at Southern Cross and which now threatens to make 31,000 vulnerable elderly UK residents homeless.
“The 17 Derbyshire care homes, run by Southern Cross, are not factories that are failing from lack of demand but are an essential part of every community which now face ruin due to the combination of privatisation and private equity.”
GMB said most of its 10,000 members at Southern Cross care homes nationwide are paid minimum wage and have had their pay frozen.
Two weeks ago, Southern Cross issued a profits warning with its share price having now lost 97 per cent of the price it was floated for in 2006 – but the firm has insisted none of its residents are facing immediate homelessness and bosses are hopeful of finding a solution.
Regional director Pam Finnis said: “Like all independent care providers, we continue to face challenges because fewer people are being placed in our homes by local authorities, many of whom are seeking to reduce the fee levels they pay in line with public spending cuts.
“Working with the support of our banks, Southern Cross is focused on improving our operational effectiveness and accelerating negotiations with landlords to seek concessions on our rent bill.
“We have an important role to play in delivering frontline services to care for elderly people across the UK. We are taking decisive action to ensure our business remains sustainable. We are also urging government, landlords and commissioners to work co-operatively in supporting us.”
In response to a question about the situation from Labour MP Jim Cunningham during Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday, Mr Cameron said: “It is vital that we have good residential care provision in our country and that there is competition and choice in that residential care provision.
“Many private providers provide an excellent service. I shall make sure that one of my Ministers gets in touch with you straight away.”