A social care champion says elderly care home residents – including a 100-year old woman carried out on a stretcher – have been evicted against their will
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, the body which represents over 500 independent care providers in Wales, condemned the “heartless” way Neath Port Talbot Council had gone about effectively forcing the closure of the Hollins Care Centre in Cimla.
The Council, which pays some of the lowest rates for care in Wales, withdrew its contract with the care home despite the fact that two months earlier an inspection by the Care Inspectorate Wales had found no concerns with care, according to owner Ben Jenkins.
Neath Port Talbot Council has now begun moving out the home’s 70 residents, leaving the Centre’s 94 staff looking for work two months before Christmas.
Mario Kreft said: “This is a very worrying development because this home hasn’t been closed by the Care Inspectorate Wales and one would have thought in a case like this the regulator would have had concerns.
“In fact the CIW report paints a picture of an improving situation at the Hollins despite the challenges of the pandemic and the outrageously low fees paid by the Council with the only complaints that the building is a bit run down – hardly surprising given the level of fees the Council are paying.
“Clearly it’s a home that has some issues but we have just come out of a global pandemic the like of which we’ve never seen before and the local authority had a contract with the home, paying what are unsustainable and irresponsibly low fees .
“Unsustainability is the very issue the Council and the Health Board are concerned about and that’s down to a lack of investment which is down to the low level of fees the home was operating under.
“If local authorities like Neath Port Talbot are not going to take responsibility and pay viable fees then home likes this are surviving on a wing and a prayer.
“The Council know full well the true cost of care, they’re just institutionally prejudiced against the private sector and that’s leading to exactly this kind of situation.”
In 2013 Neath Port Talbot Council transferred their own homes to a not for profit provider and paid them an average of £719.85 a bed, more than 50 per cent higher than their rate for private care home residents.
In fact the Council still pay their private care homes, like the Hollins, less than the 2013 figure they paid to a housing association – their average weekly payment to private care homes is £710 a bed.
That compares with the Council which pays the highest weekly rate in Wales, Torfaen, where private care home residents have overv£9,000 a year more spent on them.
Mr Kreft added: “At the heart of this we have to think of the residents and their families and some of those people are very elderly and very vulnerable and they’re now having to be moved many miles from where they want to be. They’ve effectively been evicted by the council.
“At the same time we’re coming up to Christmas and we’re saying to a large workforce we’re sorry but you haven’t got jobs.
“This has been very badly handled and whoever is responsible for this, I think the chief executive and the leader of the council should take a very close look at this and find out what lessons need to be learned.
“They are removing people against their will and putting a lot of other people out of work just before Christmas.
“They could have worked through this and gone about it in a much better way. It’s been badly done and badly communicated – removing an old lady who is 100-years-old on a stretcher is just not right.
“The Welsh Government and the Commissioner for Older People should be taking a long hard look at this and I know the Commissioner is particularly interested in people being removed from care homes against their will.
“They are paying a rate for care that is unsustainable and when inevitably things are not going as they want they pull the plug when a recent inspection report suggests that these beds and jobs could have been saved.
“Now it is highly unlikely that they will ever get these beds and jobs back because in Wales if a home closes it ceases to be registered and has to be re-registered by a new owner and has to meet the current higher standards.
“That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water because you can’t possibly build a new home in Neath Port Talbot today, even if you were given the land, and make it viable on the fees that the Council pay – it would mean instant bankruptcy. It’s just not viable.
“The current wisdom is that we are looking at £200,000 a bed for a new care home in the independent sector.
“At least two local authorities in Wales are building homes, at £280,000 a bed in Flintshire and £270,000 a bed in Gwynedd, and each is being built with £10 million of Welsh Government money.
“It’s institutional prejudice. Local authorities like Neath Port Talbot don’t like the private sector and they don’t want to pay the going rate. It’s a race to the bottom.
“When you take a contract away without any right of appeal or communication and remove people against their will to other care homes it brings up some very serious questions about the rights of individuals and how you respect older people.
“What we are seeing is a local authority cancelling a contract and removing people who don’t want to be removed, in one case an elderly lady who is now going to a home in Bridgend that’s 20 miles away where her family will only be able to visit once a week.
“We accept there are issues but were they so serious that this drastic action needed to be taken? They don’t appear to have had a Plan B.
“Instead Neath Port Talbot has lost over 70 care home beds and that will mean more people staying in hospital for longer than they need to and taking up badly needed neds there.
“I’m not sure this needed to be done but if it did it should have been with proper consultation putting individuals and families at the heart of this.
“They’ve ignored that and have simply done it because they can.”
An investigation by social care champions Care Forum Wales last year revealed the local authorities in Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are among the lowest care fee payers in Wales.
Neath Port Talbot pay the fifth lowest rate in Wales with only Flintshire, Wrexham, Swansea and Denbighshire below them in CFW’s League of Shame.