Leonard Cheshire have a history of closing care homes without any proper regard to those who live in them. Notable recent examples include Greathouse and Honresfeld, both closed with indecent haste following Leonard Cheshire’s autocratic decision.
I am disturbed to hear that on Monday Leonard Cheshire’s 7,500+ staff were informed that they are selling off 17 of their homes. They will inform residents of this on Monday.
The decision was apparently made in March, but we all know that many / all of Leonard Cheshire’s homes have been run into the ground for years, and there’s been a compete change in senior management at Leonard Cheshire over the past couple of years. Rats leaving a sinking ship?
We are, however, very disappointed at the way in which Leonard Cheshire has communicated and managed this situation to date. A letter was sent to residents and families on 25 January with the intention to close the home by 31 March.
In our view this shows an uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents, some of whom have lived in the home for over 20 years. With better planning and more notice Leonard Cheshire could have worked with Rochdale Borough Council and the CCG to plan the closure and the enforced move for residents more sensitively.
I am profoundly worried for the wellbeing of the residents in the 17 homes to be “sold”.
I’ve already noted all is not well at Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD): the Chief Executive and the Head of HR left at no notice. (LCD’s PR team told a Third Sector magazine journalist that Pelham would stay on until replaced, but now LCD refute having said any such thing.) Now the Interim Chief Executive has announced that she’s leaving LCD too as soon as LCD appoints a new CEO (anticipated in September / October.)
We now know why this is happening: LCD have a £750,000 hole in their budget for the year. (They primarily blame the National “Living” Wage for this; though we know that they did precious little to prepare for the increased wage bill – and what they did claim to do was proven to be a lie.) The new Chair of the Trustees has conducted exit interviews of senior staff, whom have been very forthright about Clare Pelham. It is widely acknowledged that Clare was only motivated by the wish to become “Lady Pelham”. LCD have lost industry confidence due to pervasive doubts about their governance – a large consultancy decided not to bid for a contract valued at £200,000 per year due to their significant concerns about LCD’s management competence.
The senior directors aren’t any loss; but the other staff LCD’s making redundant most definitely are – both in the homes they are closing and elsewhere.
In earlier years, LCD had a reasonably successful “Service User Support Team” (SUST). These disabled employees worked as facilitators and mentors throughout the UK, tasked with empowering service users to achieve greater independence. This had some moderate success. As one (charming) resident in a LCD care home put it:
Every time I see a cabbage it reminds me that I could still have been in the cabbage patch myself, if I hadn’t been persuaded that there was a life for me outside.
Leonard Cheshire obviously couldn’t let a moderately successful user empowerment project stay unmolested, so they attempted to shut it down. There was an outcry, so in the end LCD just got rid of most of the employees, leaving a vestigial staff of 14 isolated disabled people dotted round the country, in the renamed “Customer Support Team” (CST). Each part-time staff member was charged with single-handedly empowering hundreds of care home residents and domiciliary care service users across their (massive) patch. Despite being manifestly overstretched and under resourced, they made a genuine difference to disabled people’s lives, because these workers genuinely cared about the rights of Leonard Cheshire’s service users.
Disabled user empowerment workers made redundant
Leonard Cheshire are annihilating them. LCD has cut the Customer Support Team budget from £450,000 to £0,000 overnight. LCD is starting a sham “consultation” on 9th May (a bit like their sham “consultation” on the closure of Honresfeld home) but as there is no money, it is pretty clear that LCD will make all CST staff redundant. (Some have already announced their redundancy.)
The reason LCD gave for this budget cut is that its trusteestook so long to consider the team’s future (over 5 months) that its budget for 2016/17 was still undecided come April 1st. That would be bad enough if it was genuine; however I note that £450,000 p.a. is a significant saving towards the £750,000 deficit, and I suspect this is the real reason. Meanwhile the “consultation” can’t start until 9th May because Mark Elliott (Leonard Cheshire’s non-disabled Director of Development) is on a multi-week holiday in South Africa. (Good of him to check everything was A-OK with his team before swanning off [not] – perhaps he should bugger off permanently like Clare Pelham [CEO] and Vicki Hemming [HR director.])
Leonard Cheshire hasn’t told its own service users about this. Senior staff are discouraging the CST from telling us, which puts the employees in an invidious position – do they risk their references by telling service users their empowerment service is being given the boot? The CST’s dedicated team of disabled people already have to cope with being told at three weeks notice that there’s no budget for their wages, forcing them to seek employment elsewhere with great urgency (and we know disabled people experience many barriers when seeking employment, even at the best of times.) In the meantime, LCD are refusing to answer any questions about the situation (from anybody, including from the CST) until the “consultation” process starts.
The Customer Action Network, a user-led organisation attempting to provide representation of LCD service users despite continual interference and undermining by LCD, wants to start a petition to save the CST – but is being asked to delay this until the CST are under formal review. I’m glad to say the Network sent it out anyway – the petition is here.
That’s how LCD are treating the dedicated, hard-working and caring disabled people who (until now) did their best to empower LCD service users despite inadequate resources and lack of support. (i.e. those whom actually attempted the user empowerment for which LCD claims credit.)
So what happened to Clare Pelham’s promise to “stay in post until her successor was appointed“? There’s been no announcement by Leonard Cheshire, or by Clare Pelham (on Twitter or in the Huff; she doesn’t seem to have a Linked In profile.) As I previously noted, there’s no way that a career politician like Clare would have left voluntarily without another job lined up. Now she’s left / been given the kick without even working her notice.
We may remember that former people director Vicky Hemming had lied. She claimed that Leonard Cheshire Disability had written to all local authoritiesasking for increases in fees so that LCD could pay their carers the Living Wage, but that was proven irrefutably untrue.
Where’s the money?
Rumour is that our Clare and Vicky have left Leonard Cheshire in severe financial difficulties. They failed to prepare for the increased National Minimum Wage (which Osborne disingenuously refers to as the “National Living Wage“.) This has resulted in rapid closure of LCD homes with an “uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents” (to quote Rochdale Council and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group – and I now hear that other LCD homes are closing.)
It has also caused operating difficulties throughout the charity, because whilst carers‘ wages have increased, senior carers‘ wages haven’t for years and are now pretty much equal to carers‘. This has led many seniors to wonder why they should take on the extra responsibility of administering medication and running shifts, when they aren’t paid. It has also led to LCD returning to their favourite tactic of evicting residents who dare to raise concerns.
There’s undoubtedly much more to this story than meets the eye, but LCD are about as open as the Gestapo (albeit about as competent as Herr Flick) so unless and until some kind soul leaks again to Third Sector, one can only speculate. (and hope against experience that this won’t affect service users.)
Still, we have little enough reason to celebrate these days, and I think that dumping Clare Pelham and Vicky Hemming can only be a good thing – so Cheers! (And potential new employers of either – Caveat emptor!)