Under threat care home residents have ‘less rights than squatters’ says MEP Richard Howitt

CAMBRIDGESHIRE MEP Richard Howitt has today blasted the “hollow promises” of care home provider Southern Cross - claiming its elderly residents have less rights than squatters.

The Labour MEP urged the Government to step in and guarantee that residents will be able to stay in their homes. Southern Cross, who run five care homes in Fenland and seven in Cambridgeshire, is set to shut down and stop running homes.

Southern Cross and its landlords and creditors are a month into a four-month restructuring period, which began when the UK’s biggest care home operator said it was unable to pay its rent bills to its landlords. Southern Cross said the landlords were still committed to providing care to its 31,000 residents.

Mr Howitt has campaigned for the homes to remain open, making representations to the company’s Chief Executive and referring reports of alleged financial mis-dealings by the company’s Directors for inquiry by the Financial Services Authority.

Mr Howitt said: “Today is the day we were told would never happen, so yet more hollow promises from Southern Cross give me no confidence that some of the most vulnerable people in our society are not going to be turfed out of the place they call home.

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“People with dementia rely on familiar helpers and surroundings and it is no exaggeration to say moving residents would shorten their lives.

“David Cameron promised action in February and Department of Health officials were party to the latest failed deal, so it must now be right to call for the Government to step in, to itself guarantee the future of the homes and to oversee the transition to new providers.

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“At present the residents would have more rights if they were squatters.

“The alternative is to leave this to the landlords who rent the buildings out, and I don’t want to live in a society where the property market dictates how elderly people are going to live the last years of their lives.

“It was dodgy accounting that may have sparked the crisis at the company but it is vulnerable elderly and disabled people, not the executives with their payouts who are suffering the consequences.”

There are seven Southern Cross homes in Cambridgeshire: Broad Oaks in March, Dove Court in Wisbech, Friday House in Friday Bridge, Lily House in Ely, Midfield Lodge in Oakington, Strathmore House in Elm and Astoria Park in Peterborough.

About 250 of Southern Cross’ homes will immediately begin to be transferred to other operators.

Southern Cross said that details of the restructuring were not settled and there was still a possibility it could change.

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