Care home residents in Doncaster—including many receiving end-of-life care—were told last week they were being evicted in 30 days after a care home giant decided their residence was “not sustainable”.
Four Seasons Health Care has deemed that Amethyst House Care Home in Rossington, Doncaster, is operating “at a loss” and would have to close.
Angry relatives denounced the company for putting “profit before people”.
Such closures are increasingly common. In the year to September 2016 alone there was a net loss of 166 homes and 2,612 beds. The now familiar narrative from the care giants is to blame rising costs, particularly the introduction of a higher minimum wage, and austerity in local government.
There are truths in this. Care workers were so scandalously low paid, and still are, that many saw a rise in pay as a result of the introduction of the Tories’ phoney “National Living Wage” of £7.20 an hour in April last year.
And Tory austerity has created a funding crisis with 81 percent of local authorities cutting real-term spending on social care for older people over the last five years.
But another key aspect to the care crisis is profit. Major operators’ business models are based on paying poverty wages and keeping the dividends flowing to shareholders.
Four Seasons, Britain’s biggest care home group, is saddled with immense debts after it was taken over by private equity firm Terra Firma in a debt-fuelled £825 million deal in 2012.
Four Seasons is paying over £50 million a year in interest alone to repay on over half a billion pounds of debt. It was reported in December last year that it had closed or sold off over 50 homes in 18 months and expected similar numbers in 2017.
Meanwhile in January this year Terra Firma’s chief, City financier Guy Hands, grabbed a £3.5 million dividend to add to his estimated personal pile of £250 million.
And business is booming at the high end of the market where the rich pay up to £3,000 a week for luxury suites and chauffeur-driven Mercedes trips more akin to a private club than a care home.
Prices for upmarket care homes are soaring. They fetch up to £500,000 per bedroom when around £2 million profit a year can be squeezed from each home. Estate agent Knight Frank says 2016 was a “record year” with more than £4 billion assets handled through its business alone.
Private equity sees care as a cash cow that will keep delivering long term. Investors are eyeing the 1.3 million predicted increase in the over-65s by 2021 and are preparing to cash in as people sell their homes to pay for care in the absence of decent state provision.
The social care system is in deep crisis and people who should be able to retire with dignity and good care are being dumped back on to the state because bosses want profit.
Doncaster council says it will provide alternative accommodation for those who are evicted from Amethyst House, but this ignores other problems.
The vultures don’t seem to care if a 96 year old woman with dementia has her life uprooted because her home is deemed unprofitable.
This is the legacy of the privatisation of care by the Tories in the 1980s, the subsequent support by Labour and Tory governments for outsourcing local services and what the Tories are doing today.