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”.
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:
£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?
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 evict “troublesome” 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.
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.