While the phone-hacking scandal has quite rightly dominated newspapers this week, another has been unfolding in the back pages. It’s the news that the care home operator Southern Cross is to close.
Southern Cross – the organisation running more care homes than any other UK provider (over double the next three biggest) – has been forced to shut down after the landlords owning its homes said they wanted to leave the group.
Around 250 of its homes will transfer immediately to other operators, while the rest finalise plans – the fate of a small number of homes are reportedly hanging in the balance. The seriousness of this issue just demonstrates that something needs to be done with the current system of long-term care funding, as argued by the Dilnot Commission.
In the meantime Southern Cross continues to manage and run those homes and landlords have made reassuring statements about their plans for residents’ futures.
A duty of care
My grandfather had to move care homes when the home he was in became unable to meet his needs. This had a huge impact on him – and us as his family. We know that moving vulnerable older people is an absolute last resort, so we’ll have to hope that Southern Cross’s situation will be as well-managed as we’ve been told.
But it’s important to remember that a resident in any home threatened with closure has rights. The local authority has a duty of care, and a legal responsibility to assess the person so that the right care home can be identified, even if the residents will fund it themselves.
The Department of Health has clearly stated that, ‘Whatever the outcome, no-one will find themselves homeless or without care. We will not stand by and let that happen.’
These are reassuring words, in a week when people will feel battered by scandal upon scandal. At the moment though, it’s uncertain times for the residents of Southern Cross’s care homes and their families. If you’re one of those affected, do you think there needs to be better protection for care home residents?