Carson House care home scandal leaves staff and residents in dire straits

Why are our elderly being treated as transferrable assets or liabilities by homes whose only 'care' is to their balance sheets?

Staff at a residential care home in Stalybridge have been forced to occupy the home to draw attention to dire conditions and huge pay arrears.

In October care staff occupied a residential home in Stalybridge in which they worked to draw attention to the desperate situation in which both they and the elderly people in their care have been put. (Care workers stage sit-in at residential home over pay protest by Lauren Entwistle, Tameside Reporter, 2 October 2018, )

Carson House has been placed in special measures by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after inspections in 2017 revealed nightmarish conditions at the private care home. One resident had not been hoisted out of bed for five months; another had been nursed in bed for three months. One resident was suffering from an untreated eye infection, whilst another had not had his nails cut in months.

Inspectors noted stained carpets, broken sinks, cracked windowpanes and smelly bedrooms. All in all, the CQC declared the performance of the care home to be “inadequate”.

These events unfolded against a complicated legal background, with the previous owner, David Hetherington Messenger, going bankrupt and trying to sell off the property from under the feet of residents and staff. (Messenger meanwhile stayed safe and dry in his home in Clacton, Essex.) (Online record of bunkruptcy proceedings, heard 1 August 2017)

The receivers appointed an external care management team to oversee how the place was being run. The receivers claimed that the new team would “help start the transformation of the home and address any legacy issues to ensure that the provision of services for residents … was at the core of operational decision making”.

Instead, things continued to fall apart at Carson House, and whilst the CQC, Tameside council and the management team all concentrated on covering their backs and ticking the right boxes, the residents and care workers took the full brunt of the crisis.

Staff, 74 of whom face redundancy, said they even had to use £5,000 of their own money to buy food for residents after Messenger went bankrupt. Workers are themselves being pushed onto the breadline as they wait for thousands of pounds in unpaid wages. Some are having difficulty in feeding their own families, let alone the residents; others are being threatened with eviction from their homes.

One worker with an eighteen-year service record is losing her job with no redundancy pay. Meanwhile, care work agency KarePlus complains that it too is owed £37,000 in unpaid wages relating to five of its casuals employed at Carson House.

Worst hit are the residents facing expulsion from the home. Despite concerns being raised by both staff and the residents’ families, 30 residents have already been expelled, some to homes far removed from their families.

The house administrator, Heather Craine, told the local paper: “Residents, because of the financial instability of the company, were moved out pretty quickly. Sadly, one died within four days of moving. His family begged us not to move him. They knew this was going to happen. We knew this was going to happen.”

Tameside’s Labour council was quick to dodge any responsibility for the situation, wheedling: “Carson House is privately owned and the owner – not the council – has responsibility for paying staff wages.”

On the question of the expulsion of residents from the home, the spokesperson temporised, claiming (contrary to the above testimony) that “although some residents were initially reluctant to leave, no one was moved against their will”.

So long as the care of the elderly continues to rest in the clutches of the private sector, disasters like Carson House will continue to happen. Sporadic inspections by the CQC are no substitute for a fully accountable public service based on the needs of the elderly, rather than the profits of some rentier in Clacton.

Under socialism, the elderly will not be treated as transferrable assets or liabilities to be shoved from pillar to post to suit the vagaries of capitalism, but as valued members of society commanding respect and support in their later years.