Mar 132016
 

Clare Pelham, CEO of Leonard Cheshire, is resigning.

Pelham-20140930105114887

She’s resigning without another job to go to.

She’s a career politician. She was previously first chief executive of the Judicial Appointments Commission, the body charged with introducing more diversity into the Judiciary, and was under fire in the Select Committee on Constitutional Affairs for the Commission’s poor record in the first year.  (She restricted appointments to her commission to existing Civil Servants, thus perpetuating the lack of diversity.)

Before then Clare Pelham held senior civil service positions at the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. She has also a senior manager at IBM and was a member of the Executive Committee of Coca-Cola.

She has given no reasons for leaving her £150,000 job at Leonard Cheshire. I don’t need a reason, I can celebrate without one. But I smell a rat. I simply can’t see a career person like this leaving her job without some other well-paid, ego-stroking job to go to, without a serious reason.

I think she is leaving before the shit hits the fan.

OR somebody has finally GIVEN HER THE PUSH!

Leonard Cheshire are in financial trouble.

They have written to staff telling them that any Leonard Cheshire home may close, citing increased costs due to the need to pay their carers the Government’s new “National Living Wage” from 1st April. They are closing Honresfeld home with indecent haste and “an uncaring disregard for the wellbeing of residents” according to the Council and CCG, citing economic factors.

I think Clare Pelham can see the writing on the wall, doesn’t want to be associated with this looming PR disaster (she doesn’t give a stuff about the residents and staff, of course) and is escaping quick before she gets mired with the resultant bad publicity. (After all, her career and public profile were always her prime motivation anyway.) She perhaps has in mind the indecent spectacle of her predecessor, Eric Prescott. LCD brought him in as a “hatchet man” to cut costs, but left halfway through after staff morale hit rock bottom – tales of groups of staff forced to cluster round speakerphones to listen to recorded messages about the future of their employment were not confidence-inspiring.

Either that, or Leonard Cheshire have realised that her indifference to the charity’s own services has sabotaged them, and is thus giving her the push.

Leonard Cheshire didn’t prepare for the National Living Wage.

Leonard Cheshire didn’t even begin the process of asking Councils for extra money due to the increase in costs caused by the mandatory National Living Wage (due 1st April 2016), until December 2015. We already know that they hadn’t bothered asking for more money to enable them to pay their carers the  (entirely different) Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage, until I forced them to do so (in a desultory and non-comprehensive fashion.) Councils have either refused due to their shrinking budgets, or told Leonard Cheshire it will have to wait for a decision pending multiple fee review meetings.

Worries for staff and residents

So LCD have done too little and left it too late. Now staff round the country are demoralised and worried for their jobs, and care home residents around the country (+ their relatives etc.) (with whom Leonard Cheshire have not deigned to communicate on this matter) are left not knowing if their home will be shut in two months with all of them evicted.

This situation is looking increasingly like a repeat Southern Cross. Yeah, thanks for that, Leonard Cheshire Disability.

I quote the founder again:

As time passed, professionalism advanced, and trustee numbers rose. In 1985 the trustees debated proposals which in Cheshire’s eyes “seemed to be based on the assumption that the foundation was moving towards being run by full-time professional staff, with the trustees responsible only for broad policy“. He opposed this, predicting that it would lead to “a radical change in the foundation’s way of thinking.” There would be less local involvement, diminished local fund-raising and a decline in voluntary help. Against this, core costs would rise, and the foundation “would become more and more like the NHS or social services“. (my emphasis)

Do Cheshire Homes have a future?

Mar 032016
 

Leonard Cheshire has decided to close Honresfeld Cheshire Home, Littleborough. It notified the residents and staff on 27th January of the impending closure at the end of March. 22 disabled people with high support needs live there. Arranging new accommodation and moving is difficult and traumatic enough for people without severe impairments. Imagine trying to sort out suitable care, equipment and accommodation at such short notice

Leonard Cheshire claim that they are consulting over this closure; but it is clear that they have decided they will close it, and rapidly. Their two months notice is in breach of the standard contract with Leonard Cheshire residents, which states:

7.6 In addition to any other rights it has to do so, Leonard Cheshire Disability may terminate this Agreement by giving at least three months written notice to the Service User at any time if Leonard Cheshire Disability proposes to close, temporarily or permanently, or to modify or redevelop the Home and believes that it is not possible in such circumstances to continue this Agreement beyond the end of that notice period.

So Leonard Cheshire Disability have to give residents three months notice. They gave them two months. Why?

As I say, they claim they were consulting on their closure. This doesn’t seem to be a consultation on if they will close, but how. They then decided to give residents an extra couple of months to get out – how generous! Given their own contracts say they have to give three months notice, I have concluded that they always intended on shutting in four months, but went for two just so they can show they are being “responsive” to the “consultation”.

cartoon by Crippen

And when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is! Cartoon c/o the excellent Crippen. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK

So why do they have to close anyway, and so quickly?

Leonard Cheshire says that it’s because:

the service is no longer financially viable in the current market. Our charity has been financially supporting the service for a number of years and sadly this is no longer possible.

In addition, the Victorian building requires substantial investment to bring it up to modern-day standards. (my emphasis.)

If Leonard Cheshire have been funding the home for “a number of years”, why the urgent rush to shut it? Is the home that unviable and that skint? The Council and the NHS deny this:

The council and the CCG thoroughly and absolutely refute that the levels of fees paid to Leonard Cheshire, the owners of the home, by Rochdale Borough Council and others can be attributed to their decision to close the home.

We are strongly of the view that with efficient use of resources, the care home could remain open.

We would welcome the opportunity to examine the accounts of Leonard Cheshire and will gladly work with them to provide assistance to review their staffing and care costs in order to find efficiencies to support the home to be viable.

The state of the building and the costs of the works needed to bring it up to standard is a separate issue. We understand that Leonard Cheshire has to make decisions about use of its resources, although we note that according to the last accounts published by the Charity Commission, the organisation has significant levels of reserves.

As a council and CCG we must respect Leonard Cheshire’s commercial decision to close this home as the building needs significant capital investment. We are also aware that any subsequent sale of the land is likely to provide significant additional sale value for the organisation.

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. (my emphasis.)

So the Council and the NHS think the rapid closure is unnecessary. Leonard Cheshire undoubtedly won’t let them examine their books, Leonard Cheshire is about as transparent and accountable as Colditz. We therfore have to examine other figures.

  • Rochdale council pays Leonard Cheshire on average 44% more per placement than for analogous placements with other providers.
  • They’re not alone: 55 of 71 other councils that place residents in LCD care homes similarly pay more to Leonard Cheshire than to others. (reference)

Perhaps they pay their carers more?

Nope. As previously noted, despite their Chief Executive advocating that carers should be paid the Living Wage as set by the Independent Living Foundation, Leonard Cheshire routinely pays just above the minimum wage. The minimum wage for people aged over 21 outside London is £6.70 per hour. The Living Wage as set by the Independent Living foundation is £8.25 per hour. Leonard Cheshire is currently advertising for carers:

Support Worker (Residential Services) Penzance: £6.77 per hour.

£6.77 per hour.

Leonard Cheshire repeatedly claim that they have “written to all local authorities who commission our services about our desire to pay the living wage” but in fact they still haven’t; for example Manchester City Council contract Leonard Cheshire but have never received any correspondence from them whatsoever asking for increases in fees to enable them to pay the living wage.

So it doesn’t go on carer’s wages. Where does it go?

Good question!

As of April 2015, there were 14 LCD employees who earn more than MPs. (An increase from 11 employees the previous year.) (from their Annual Accounts.) Between them, these LCD employees earn at least £1,300,000 per year (+ private medical care, pensions and other bonuses.) That £1,300,000 is considerably more than Honresfeld residents’ fees. (Assuming that residents’ fees are about £39,000 per year, based upon figures supplied by Rochdale Council, the fee income for Honresfeld is around £850,000 pa.)

Just think: if LCD cut the salaries of their top 14 employees to that of a carer (i.e. the people who actually do the work that makes a difference to disabled people), they could save well over £1,000,000 per year. This saving could more than double the contribution from Honresfeld residents’ fees.

Leonard Cheshire evictions

Leonard Cheshire has a long history of attempting to evicttroublesome” and “non-profitable” people. In the 1950s, it attempted to evict a number of residents  who protested at having to be in their pyjamas by 6pm every day. In 2002, Leonard Cheshire argued for – and got – the legal precedent that they don’t have to respect residents’ human rights, so that they could evict residents from Le Court (the original Cheshire home.) In 2010, “a range of senior (LCD) management” were found to have committed institutional and psychological abuse of me over a number of years, in the process of which they illegitimately attempted to evict me without any justification. Now they are evicting Honresfeld residents with unneeded and cruel haste because they aren’t “profitable“.

I know what Leonard Cheshire the man would have thought. He’s on record. To quote Richard Morris’s biography of him:

As time passed, professionalism advanced, and trustee numbers rose. In 1985 the trustees debated proposals which in Cheshire’s eyes “seemed to be based on the assumption that the foundation was moving towards being run by full-time professional staff, with the trustees responsible only for broad policy“. He opposed this, predicting that it would lead to “a radical change in the foundation’s way of thinking.” There would be less local involvement, diminished local fund-raising and a decline in voluntary help. Against this, core costs would rise, and the foundation “would become more and more like the NHS or social services“. (my emphasis)

In response to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation’s attempt to evict those who objected to the pyjama curfew:

he responded by advising the Management Committee that a Cheshire Home was a home for life.

Honresfeld resident Harry Roach said:

It can’t be right that we can be thrown out after two months. I’ve been here 10 years and I’m happy here.

I thought that they would at least give us a year.

When they said two months I thought ‘You are having a laugh’.

Two months to sort your life out? It would be hard for somebody not disabled, let alone someone in a wheelchair.

Quite.

There is a petition to stop the closure of Honresfeld Cheshire Home.

Nov 212015
 
cartoon by Crippen

And when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is!

Clare Pelham, Leonard Cheshire’s Chief Executive Officer, was interviewed by Peter White today on Radio 4 “You and Yours” about disabled peoples’ difficulties in accessing buses. This is because their survey of 179 wheelchair users found “over nine out of ten (92%) wheelchair users had been refused a space on a bus” and “three in five (61%) people identified buggies in the wheelchair space as the biggest problem they faced. This was way ahead of other problems faced by those using wheelchairs“.

Peter White asked her specifically if she thought that the Paulley vs Firstbus case would find in my favour at Supreme Court.

Peter White: “So this case, that is still going to the Supreme Court, are you expecting that to be restored? Mr Paulley‘s right to get on the bus?”

Clare Pelham: “I don’t think I would even presume to guess what Supreme Court judges would find. But actually, I think this shouldn’t be a case for the law. This should be a case for the people, the people to do what’s right, whether they are bus drivers or passengers, we all want to have public transport that enables all of the public to travel.”

That obviously works well, doesn’t it. People with pushchairs, other passengers, drivers, they all know and understand that if the wheelchair space isn’t made available, a wheelchair user can’t travel. Yet by her own figures, 61% of wheelchair users identify buggies in the wheelchair space as the biggest problem they face. Just how does she think the few people with pushchairs, other passengers and drivers who currently prevent wheelchair users traveling are suddenly going to realise the error of their ways? How, precisely, is she going to instill this magnanimity into the British populace? Through simpering on Radio 4?

Leonard Cheshire try to claim to be the voice of disabled people, a campaigning force to be reckoned with. That’s why they spend £735,000 per year on “campaigning”, and why they have posh offices in Vauxhaul – ostensibly so they can toddle round the corner to lobby Parliament. (They grew too big for their previous offices in Millbank.) Yet they don’t have any legitimacy. They don’t have a constituency, and politically active disabled people despise them. They also don’t walk the walk for the talk they talk, as demonstrated by Northumbria University’s research – an apposite quote below.

“One of the problems it (user involvement) causes is when residents become more empowered and aware of the opportunities of life they’re likely to ask for more. In asking for more, it usually involves staff, and resources are already very scarce and limited, and centred mainly in providing basic daily care in washing, dressing, eating and they occupy an awful lot of time. Empowerment creates problems of staff support. And if the choice of empowerment involves travel then that’s a further added burden. Not necessarily to pay the cost of travelling but to have the opportunity with limited transport or escort.” – A resident in a Leonard Cheshire care home.

Yet even Leonard Cheshire recognise that the Firstbus case is an important fight. Andy Cole (Minister for Administrative Aff – sorry, Director of Corporate Affairs) told BBC News that Leonard Cheshire was disappointed with the Appeal Court judgement as it did not provide “clarity and certainty for disabled bus passengers that the space they need will definitely be made available“, and further that if the case moved to the Supreme Court he hoped any judgement would provide that certainty. (He even gave me a back-handed compliment; “The case shows the immense impact that individual campaigners can have“).

One wonders what planet Clare Pelham is on. Out of touch with service users, disabled people, her own care-workers and even her own campaign team (or at least her Ashley Maddison rep – sorry, “Director of Corporate Affairs”.)

Non-disabled and on £150,000 per year plus private medical treatment and other benefits – surely Clare Pelham should shut up or carry on her disempowering self-serving greasy-pole-climbing elsewhere?

With thanks as ever to the wonderful Dave Lupton / Crippen for his excellent cartoon.

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