Thousands of older people have been left with an uncertain future following news that Britain’s biggest care homes firm is up for sale.
HC-One bosses hope to pocket £1 billion from selling their 369 residential and nursing care homes.
The news leaves residents and families terrified about their care—and 14,000 workers fearing for their jobs.
If investors close companies, they can withdraw care. This was the case with Bield homes, which closed most of its 12 care homes earlier this year (see below).
The HC-One selloff is the latest example of a fragmented and highly competitive social care sector.
Just last week care home company Four Seasons announced it was being taken over, after fat cats lost £450 million on their investment.
HC-One was founded in 2011 and took over hundreds of care homes from Southern Cross when it collapsed.
Care UK is another healthcare giant that is selling off its residential arm. It has 118 care homes with almost 8,000 beds.
Theresa Rollinson worked for Care UK before it sold some of its supported living services for people with learning disabilities.
Now the service is operated by Living Ambition. Theresa said selloffs left workers in “constant worry about how the changes to terms and conditions will affect us”.
And the news about HC-One comes just days after Allied Healthcare, which also owns care homes, agreed a repayment plan. Allied bosses had warned of imminent collapse in April.
Bosses at Allied and HC-One have both in part blamed a HMRC ruling made last November for the cuts.
This said that workers on a sleep-in shift should receive the minimum wage for all their time spent at work.
Previously to this, staff would only get a flat rate for the shift.
Bosses are worried because workers can claim up to six years of backdated sleep-in pay.
But Theresa says that the sleep-in changes only affect those on the lowest pay rate, and her average hourly wage hasn’t gone up.
There are also widespread cuts to local authority funding, and greater pressure for people to self-fund their stays in care homes.
But with an ageing population, these care homes are needed now more than ever.
The number of care homes has fallen by more than 700 in the last two years, and 148 care home businesses fell into insolvency in 2017.
Theresa said that councils are selling off care homes, but ultimately “services should be in house”.
“They’re all looking for bailouts,” she said. “But private companies shouldn’t be doing this in the first place.”
‘She’s lost two stone’ after closure
Laura Owens set up the campaign to save Bield care homes in Scotland when they were threatened with closure.
The closures went ahead and Laura’s grandmother has suffered hugely as result.
“She has deteriorated to the extent we were told she would start to receive end of life care”, Laura told Socialist Worker.
“She’s lost two stone in weight, she doesn’t eat and she’s no longer able to hold a conversation.”
Laura added, “The Scottish government have washed their hands of the whole thing.
“My MSP Michael Matheson told me, ‘Laura, we don’t have a bottomless pit of money.’ But they find money for other things.”
The impact has been massive.
“Some families have ended up taking their relatives home again, and it’s mostly women looking after them now,” Laura said.
Laura is part of Social Work Action Network, which is fighting for the renationalisation of adult social care across Britain