/ Health, Home & Energy

Southern Cross homes close – what about residents’ rights?

Older people walking away

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?


Until 30 years ago, council tenants had no rights to security of tenure. It remains one of the Thatcher government’s greatest acheivements to have corrected this although the Coalition is now trying to put the clock back to some extent.

Residence in private care homes has grown explosively in recent years but politicians have failed to address the law on the subject. There is a need for a Private Care Act to set down basic rights and security for residents. Which? should start the ball rolling by publishing an approved form of agreement.

Concerned says:
23 July 2011

On how we agree. We have a relative whose care home owner has made threats to throw them out of the home when we have complained about year on year massive increases in fees. We understand that across the country huge rises are being made for those who fund themselves, yet there is no consumer protection for older people in this country against unreasonable and unjustified increases by such providers. Even when providers have contracts which do not meet the OFT guidance on fair contracts in care homes, trying to get action has taken years and we still do not know if anything can be done. In addition, regulators seem to be tardy in taking action over care issues and do not cover consumer issues. We would not stand for it as younger people, so why should older people be at such a disadvantage, many of whom cannot speak for themselves and whose relatives are afraid to speak up. They often have no choice of care home to move to, especially in rural areas and anyway moving them when they are often vulnerable is not the answer. Please Which this is an increasing problem and who knows how care will be dealt with in the future. This is an issue which should be dealt with now. Older people do not have the time to wait and deserve better care and consumer protection.

Once again – through the greed of people out to make a fast buck – the ordinary people suffer.

This company just wanted to make profits – they cared nothing for the old folk and to prove it, they bailed out the minute those precious profits were not forthcoming.

Batlynn says:
17 August 2011

The ‘ Rights ‘ of vulnerable people will NEVER be validated so long as there is no recognition that they need help to understand and deal with their own vulnerability and its implications. The private care sector, among others, promoted the idea that everyone knew what they needed in terms of their personal care and could choose the way they met that need.
The previous idea that a ‘professional’ – be it medical or social work could assist in that knowledge was undermined. Result is that vulnerable people were ‘sold’ the idea that they needed care in care homes ( nice buildings with single rooms and minimal staff.) but no one looked at the wider implications of those decisions or had the responsibility to ensure that the vulnerable person was not misused.
When care homes were answerable to local authorities and not for profit organisations there was some degree of control by local people. When they became owned by and the source of financial profit their ethos changed.
As a former social worker who for 30 years worked with vulnerable adults the balance between ensuring their ‘protection’ ( in relation to care, finances, legal responsibility) changed to one of having to stand back and watch them being exploited in the name of giving them ‘choice’. ‘ If they chose it they are responsible for the outcome’ and I, as their ( former) social worker can only try to warn them.
A recent report by a National audit indicates that there is no reason why well managed care homes cannot meet the needs of their residents and make a reasonable profit. A ‘reasonable’ profit is never enough for private equity firms. The fact is these homes were largely built with money from local Authorities and Health providers ie taxpayers paid for them.
My view is that if the property owners are not prepared to continue meeting the needs of their residents compulsery purchase orders should be made and the buildings should be leased to ‘not for profit’ organisations to manage. The current ‘building’ owners would then have the choice of retianing ownership and charging a reasonable rent or relinquishing them.

gerald says:
6 November 2012

Dear Batlyn,
I would point out that ALL providers of Care for the Elderly are suffering the same problem which is caused, according to Local Authorities, by Goverment underfunding. This situation started in 1993 when the Conservative Goverment of the day transfered funding to County Councils.Why is it the Councils and the Audit Authority have never got the Public a better deal in spit of many Reports ,like the Dilmot Report, saying that the underfunding is a fact.
I would also like to point out that It is the individual or their family who receives the funding and it is up to them to decide with whom the spend it, have you not given any thought (in all your length of service) why the Public decide to choose the Private Sector over the Public Sector in spite of inducements offered by the Public Sector.
Maybe you have never bothered to ask the Public who you say you have served for so long.

Gerald says:
23 February 2013

Well Batlyn, hasn’t,t a lot happened in the last few months which should make people think twice about your proposals of returning to the good old days
Abuse of Children in Local authority Homes in Wales
BBC cover up in the Case of Jimmy and Friends
Mid staffs Hospital and others etc etc
All the above are run by non profit proffesionals are they not, are you still so proud of your colleagues . Had the Private Sector done a small proportion of the above mess you and your colleagues would have gleefully closed us down.

gerald says:
13 February 2013

Well well, after waiting for the Flood of complaints from the thousands of clients of Southern Cross I must say even I am amazed by how well the Company and its succesors have managed to deal with such a large problem “Well Done ” everyone !!

Compare the above with the fiasco when Surrey County Council and the Border Agency closed down a Home Care Agency and then forget to arrange alternative services providers

Concerned says:
22 February 2013

A company which was run for the benefit of the residents would have continued to meet their needs and no moves would ever have been needed in the first place. The greed of some care home and care at home owners is undermining good and stable care for many vulnerable people.

Gerald says:
23 February 2013

Well “concerned” but obviously not to we’ll informed you are obviously not aware of the real facts the main one being
Unlike the NHS which has had money thrown at for years and still has an appalling record of Care for the Elderly , this Group which by the way had not attracted anywhere near the complaints which certain NHS hospitals have recently been accused of was actually paid in the region of 25 per cent of the weekly charge of the hospital trusts.
I for one have been continually warning local government officials for years and even when the Dilmot Report agreed no action was taken.
You are obviously not aware of the facts of life out here in the real world , ie if you do not pay your your way you go bust, you can not keep giving a lousy service and expect tax payers to bail you out that only applies to Bankers and Public Funded Authorities