Uncertain future for cash-strapped Southern Cross care homes

Brierfield House Care Home. A080611/4.
Brierfield House Care Home. A080611/4.

TWO Pendle care homes face an uncertain future after provider Southern Cross announced plans to tackle its debt.

The company, which provides care at Brierfield House Care Home, Brierfield, and Hulton Care Home, Nelson, announced on Wednesday that 3,000 jobs nationwide were to go by October through its “New Horizons” programme introduced 18 months ago.

The move will reduce the company’s staff from 44,000 to 41,000 but Southern Cross said Home Managers, Deputy Managers and Relief Managers, Activity Coordinators and Administrators would not directly be affected by the job losses.

Last week, Southern Cross announced it would defer paying its landlords 30% rent for the next four months in an effort to reduce the strain on its finances after reporting half-year losses of £311m. in April.

However, the GMB and Unison have urged the government to intervene this week to secure the long-term future of Southern Cross’ 750 homes and 31,000 residents.

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary said: “Losing your job in this economic downturn is a tragedy, and for elderly people to have the huge worry of losing their homes is a disgrace.

“The care sector is hugely labour intensive, and there is no doubt job losses on this scale will mean elderly people in Southern Cross homes get a lower standard of care and some homes may be at risk of closure.

“The government must step in to protect residents and staff by getting to grips with Southern Cross.”

Christopher Fisher, Chairman of Southern Cross, said: “The objective will be to emerge with a stable and sustainable business model for the continuing care of our residents. Our primary concern is the continuity of care to all our 31,000 residents.

“Notwithstanding the current financial pressures, Southern Cross is in the process of transforming the quality of its business. The benefits of the New Horizons programme are becoming apparent but their full effects are still to work through.

“There is a real momentum behind the ambition of our management team and there is too much of value within our business for it to be lightly discarded.”

“Decisions on our future must be governed by a paramount concern for the welfare of our residents. We believe that for a critical mass of our landlords, supporting a restructured Southern Cross remains the most attractive option open to them, as we intend to demonstrate.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “It’s very concerning. I’ll be closely watching the situation as it develops.

“The biggest concern though is the elderly, frail and vulnerable people in the homes. The last thing they need is to be facing an uncertain future.”