The Southern Cross fiasco has an air of inevitability about it for me
I feel the urge almost to gloat…this is the perfect storm of what makes my blood boil…the unsustainability of the “private” care home business,and the “financial wizardry” of those oh so clever assholes ,the private venture capital expertise that , not satisfied with any degree of altruism going forward, attempted to “make back” the capital investment by ,effectively selling peoples homes out from under them,only to be stung mercilessly by the extortionate rents that the greedy bastards they sold them to have ,year on year, attempted to extract….All in the name of greedy moneymaking,but bound up in the stupid stock exchange mess that could well see some of the more financially astute among the population of the care-homes actually owning shares in the Landlord companies within their own share portfolios!
“Granny Farming” as a close friend started to refer to it in the late nineties, began a decade earlier under Thatcher and Major..
Tax breaks for second businesses or whatever led to many of the sort of place I used to work at…find and convert an ex-farmhouse..put in a lift ..fill it with hopefully as many of the widowed or spinster ancients sitting in bungalows in the locale now valued in the millions ,with the acreage …and ,increasingly,of course those of more modest means ,who’s care was and still is subsidised to greater or lesser degrees by the LOCAL AUTHORITY.and ,crucially for those with a “Nursing Home” registration,the NHS.. Yes that very same local authority who have,as a result of the banking bail-out etc been instructed to do everything they do at the moment for ,on average, 50 million less per year…this funding “tug of war” between Health and Local Government is supposedly being addressed at the moment…
Back in the late eighties the future looked bright …blue horizons .the county still seemed to have a rich vein of little old ladies in bungalows…and of course this model for a small 20 to 30 bed Nursing Home,where “continual care” 24 hr “nursing care” is funded from the NHS has remained ,largely sustainable
In my county “residential care” is still under the direct auspicious of the county council..i am a county employee…In ’97 a privatising deal was on the table,being worked towards..with the change of Government,the political tide changed. We breathed a sigh of relief when the privatising deal was scrapped and we remained a public body.Our cache should be rising at this point!
Instead , we know what is happening to Local Authority budgets,we’ve got our work cut out like never before.
More than ever ,the publically run regulated and accountable service model looks the right way. We are in the minority in this respect…and the Southern Cross disaster will surely not be the last “financial crisis to hit a chain of private care homes.
It’s not comforting to us that in this age of “private consultancy” fixing the Public services,that an ex-employee of Southern Cross,is in charge of the “restructuring” of our service to accommodate the cuts!
The “Southern Cross” type companies are “dual registration”. If a service user needs subsidy for “residential care” that is “personal care”..help with washing and dressing ..short of “medical” care.Then they are means tested. The local authority subsidises them to a greater or lesser degree.
Obviously,for the likes of the stupidly greedy Southern Cross,the gravy train has run out of track. The local authorities were already putting a cap on subsidies that was beginning to impinge on the upper levels of the private homes profit margins, and in the case of Southern Cross their oh so clever money-making business model has become wholly unsustainable…
The CEO says that earlier this year the business was more “cash positive”..more deaths due to flu at Christmas? Greater throughput? …and of course that the care delivered “ will not be impaired” ..yes that’s because those workers are on about £13,000 ,have an empathy and aptitude for the job and are generally NOT selfish greedy bastards.
Well, now,with the local authority subsidy capped,and even reduced.they just cannot squeeze enough bloody cash out of their current crop of grannies and grandpas…
What self-respecting,right-thinking care-manager,would be placing someone in a Southern Cross home right now? In the knowledge that someone who may have just had to completely “realise their assets” ie ,sell their property ,to pay £900 a week for their care could be potentially throwing there lot in with a bankrupt company,looking for a set of buyers and or bail-out by the tax-payer?..Surely,they are dead in the water.
Why,short of a Government bail-out should their creditors and Landlords waive their own share-holders profits and write off their debts? A sudden attack of altruism and compassion from the world of finance? I don’t think so.
Don’t forget ,we are talking 31,000 people the population of a town like Newbury Berkshire,near where the Middletons live…..largely in at least their seventh and eigth decades..these are the people who were told that they could expect to be cared for from the “Cradle to the Grave”..they fought the Nazis..they saw the Welfare State created ,and ,from the eighties to the present,day gradually dismantled..where now ,more than ever, even complete financial security does not even secure a safe ,caring environment to live in…
As I run through this litany I find it harder than ever to believe that our county service is being squeezed and potentially degraded by cuts to budgets that ,following the Dilnot report on funding for elderly care,may look completely indefensible.
Will we ever ,as a society get our priorities right again?