Calls for investigation into ‘profit-led’ organisation

RESIDENTS of Methil care home Forth View have been assured they will not be left homeless as a result of a crisis at operator Southern Cross.

The Fife Council pledge came after the healthcare firm announced on Monday that its business was to be broken up with shares suspended and landlords instructed to take over its homes.

Southern Cross currently operates 750 homes in the UK, seven of which are in Fife including the 60-bed Sea Road home.

Under the company’s plan, 250 of those will be transferred to existing landlords. The owners of the remaining 500 homes are “still finalising plans” which could involve selling up. Southern Cross Healthcare could not confirm which category Forth View falls into.

As a result, 56 members of staff and 60 residents at the Methil home are left to wait and worry.

The announcement prompted MP Lindsay Roy to call for an investigation after it was discovered much of Southern Cross is owned by landlords operating from tax havens.

He said: “There are real issues surrounding businesses that take on care homes with a financial profit motive: the dividends and gains should be for the people in care and not for the companies and their shareholders.”

Southern Cross Healthcare is the UK’s largest care provider and it was only two years ago that the firm opened Forth View.

But the building’s actual owner remains unknown – despite investigations by union GMB to find out through enquiries made with Land Registries.

And with the company now in difficulty Fife Council’s Rona Laing, head of older people’s services, has spoken out to assure residents they will be looked after regardless.

She said: “We have robust contingency plans in Fife to make sure people’s needs are met and that they are looked after in the best possible way, regardless of who may be providing that care.

“These arrangements will be implemented, as appropriate, when Southern Cross announces its plans at a local level.”

GMB discovered 325 of 336 Southern Cross care homes are owned by a number of companies registered in tax havens, including the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Gibraltar. It also found that 80 landlords own 615 of the 750 homes.

Justin Bowden, GMB national officer, said “Southern Cross may be on its last legs but for Southern Cross’s 31,000 residents and 43,000 staff this looks like a case of ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire.’

“These 80 landlords are a rag-bag bunch whose number includes overseas interests, tax dodgers and in some case ‘identity still unknown’. Many themselves are in financial difficulties.

“All this spells months’ more uncertainty and worry for residents and staff. The ears of the 31,000 elderly and vulnerable residents and 43,000 staff must be ringing from the deafening silence from Downing Street.

“The Government instead is today publishing a White Paper which says the future for all public services is outsourcing. Meanwhile back in the real world this is what happens when the private sector is given access to public money.”

Southern Cross’ chairman Christopher Fisher said a period of uncertainty was drawing to a close as arrangements for the future of individual homes were being clarified.