Council to end contract for elderly sheltered housing care

Jane Avis: taking control of sheltered housing, where standards of care have given cause for complaints

The council is bringing back in-house the care of 237 older tenants in special sheltered flats and ending its contract with the existing private provider, following repeated complaints that the services provided had been falling below acceptable standards.

It is the latest move by the Labour-run council to move away from often expensive and uneconomic outsourcing arrangements for public services in the borough, where third-party companies have been delivering poor levels of service, and follows the parks service and libraries being returned to direct council control.

From January, the council will take charge of six sheltered housing blocks at:

• Frylands Court in New Addington
• Southsea Court in Broad Green
• Toldene Court in Old Coulsdon
• Brookhurst Court in South Norwood
• Freeman Court in Norbury
• Truscott House in West Croydon

Special sheltered blocks are supposed to allow vulnerable older residents to maintain their independence in their own self-contained flats, while also receiving a greater degree of security and service, including care and support from on-site staff.

But in recent months, there have been growing concerns about the standards of care and maintenance at some of the sheltered housing, in particular Freeman Court and Toldene Court, including a lack of heating and no hot water for weeks on end.

The litany of failings included:

  • Toldene residents left without a disabled bath and hoist for more than eight months
  • The kitchen in the communal area at Toldene was closed and residents were unable even to have a Christmas meal
  • Medication was locked in an office, with no ready access
  • Only one carer was on duty for long periods at a time, despite needing to look after 50 residents
  • Residents at Freemen Court left without heating or hot water for eight weeks
  • The disabled bathroom at Freemen Court left out of action for more than a year
  • The garden at Freemen Court was left unmaintained and allowed to become overgrown

The complaints led to angry exchanges at council meetings in the Town Hall, with Tory councillor Yvette Hopley saying, “A civilised society should have no higher duty than honouring and looking after the senior generation.

“Not only do these failures fly in the face of common decency but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Labour administration have never had a grasp on the shocking situation and have left vulnerable residents in appalling conditions for months on end. Immediate action is urgently required.”

Yet it was Hopley and Croydon Conservatives who outsourced the sheltered housing contracts in the first place.

The contract to operate the care services at these sheltered housing blocks was privatised in 2013 by the council’s previous Conservative administration, who appointed Care UK, who sub-contracted this to Mears and now London Care Ltd.

Southsea Court, one of the sheltered housing blocks being returned to council control

Care UK’s contract with Croydon Council for residential and nursing care will not be affected by the changes to the sheltered housing.

Announcing the move, a Town Hall spokesman said, “The council intends to continue to improve and invest in these special sheltered blocks once they are back in-house, from upgrading communal areas and furniture to installing new shared kitchens and revamping community gardens.

“In line with legislation covering the transfer of staff, the current provider’s employees will be able to transfer automatically on to the council payroll. Those that do would be guaranteed the London Living Wage. Transferring existing staff to the new in-house contract will minimise any disruption to the tenants’ existing care arrangements.”

Jane Avis, the council cabinet member responsible, said, “Supporting our residents to be happy, healthy and more independent is a council priority, and these proposals to bring this contract back under our control allow us to be more hands-on in the day-to-day running of services for these residents.”

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