Yet another example of how our local council, in off-loading its social care responsibilities, is opting for the lowest cost option rather than acting in the best interests of Croydon’s most vulnerable people.
It is less than a month since the Conservative-controlled council ploughed on with plans to privatise the care of elderly residents at a number of Croydon-owned care homes.
Croydon’s chosen provider? Care UK, a profit-making company whose services have been subject to so many complaints that Hertfordshire and Harrow have recently sacked them. In Islington, the company was mired in controversy after the bodies of two residents were left in their rooms for a couple of days.
An investigation for the BBC’s Panorama programme found other startling failures elsewhere in the country at homes run by commercial operators, where “care” is less important than cost. Care UK’s services was among those exposed by the BBC.
Undeterred by that programme’s findings, Margaret Mead, the council cabinet member responsible for social care, ploughed ahead with plans to hand over several Croydon care homes, mostly built at public expense, to Care UK. And all for savings of £2 million a year.
Margaret Mead has an eccentric approach to civic responsibility and caring, as she showed two years ago when she presided over a ban on pensioners and other voluntary groups using the “Mayor’s Parlour” for meetings, for fear that they would wear out the carpet.
At last month’s packed council meeting on the future of the council-run care homes, Mead refused to answer several questions. She then left the meeting early.
Presumably Margaret and her husband and fellow Tory leading light Dudley – who boasts of working from 8am to 11pm every day on council business to justify his and his wife raking in more than £80,000 a year in council allowances – had planned a cosy night in together. Or maybe they had a Chubby Brown gig to attend at the Fairfield Halls, the venue a recent recipient of a £1.5 million hand-out from the cost-cutting Tories on Croydon Council? Coincidentally, Dudders happens to chair the governing board at Fairfield Halls…
How is Care UK able to offer supposedly equivalent services at care homes but at lower costs than those incurred when Croydon was running them? By the simple expedient of cutting the staff’s wages. As Panorama showed, this often leads to untrained and under-qualified staff being hired.
London Living Wage, unless you live in Croydon
Croydon Council paid its care staff around £11.20 per hour. According to Labour councillor Kathy Bee, Care UK in London is paying its staff as little as £6.80 per hour – barely above the legal minimum wage. Asked at a public council meeting what terms would be offered to Croydon’s former staff when Care UK takes over their employment, Margaret Mead refused to answer, saying it will be subject to negotiation between individual staff and Care UK. Clearly, once the service is off Croydon’s books, Mead and the Tory council couldn’t care less.
Interestingly, around the same time that this was happening, a campaign for a “London Living Wage” was being launched. Mindful that the costs of living and working in the capital are much higher than in the rest of the country, the London Living Wage is recommended to be £8.30 per hour.
One leading figure said: “Decent hard-working Londoners deserve proper reward for their labours, and I’m delighted that a growing number of organisations recognise that it suits them as well as their staff to pay the London Living Wage.
“It really is a win win for employers as paying a fair wage fosters a loyal and motivated workforce, while at the same time continues to help pull many Londoners out of poverty and boost the capital’s economy. Already many major employers have joined us in signing up and I urge others to look seriously at the benefits and join this important crusade.”
Who was it who voiced such a socially aware concept? A left-wing ideologue such as Bob Crow, perhaps? A Labour cabinet member such as Ed Balls?
No, “this important crusade” was advocated by London Mayor and Tory party icon Boris Johnson.
Perhaps Boris should have a word with his mucker Steve O’Connell (who is paid a very living wage of up to £56 per hour from the public purse as he rakes in his £118,000 in council and London Assembly allowances) about pay rates in Croydon’s care homes?
Southern Cross care crisis
Croydon could be staring down the barrel of a care home crisis, following the news this week that another care home operator, Southern Cross, is in financial difficulties. Maybe trying to profit from the elderly and vulnerable is not always such a proven winner.
Acacia Lodge in central Croydon, Elmwood nursing home in West Croydon, Eltandia Hall in Norbury, Oban House in South Croydon, and Clarendon House nursing home in Thornton Heath are all operated by Southern Cross, which owns almost 750 care homes around Britain, with more than 30,000 elderly in its care.
With financial obligations of more than £200 million and mounting, Southern Cross is now seeking government help, and hoping that its landlords will accept reduced rental payments.
If the company is unable to continue to trade, care for the residents at it homes – including those in Croydon – may fall on local social services. Yesterday, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron gave a guarded guarantee that the on-going care and welfare of elderly care home residents will be a priority.
If only that were also to apply to those elderly residents in Croydon who have been put in the cost-cutting hands of Care UK.
- Why has CEO Rouse bunged public cash to private school? (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Secret scheme to cut transport for disabled children (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Care UK care home fails in duty of care (careintheuk.wordpress.com)
- Southern Cross care home rent cuts anger landlords (telegraph.co.uk)