Friday, 13 July 2007


Liverpool care firm collapse hits 500 patients

Jul 13 2007

by Jessica Shaughnessy, Liverpool Daily Post

A HOME care agency relied on by hundreds of Liverpool’s most vulnerable people is to go into liquidation.

Lyndhurst Home Care will shut down today, leaving more than 500 service users, mostly elderly, and 200 carers uncertain of their future.

The closure comes just weeks after the company warned that controversial changes in city council contracts would drive it out of business.

Liverpool City Council last night moved to reassure the elderly people dependent on the agency that plans were already in place to look after them.

But care industry insiders say the news spells the start of a “wake-up call” for the authority. Tearful carers, who will not be officially informed by Lyndhurst, about the redundancies until a meeting at 3pm today, last night accused company directors of keeping them in the dark.

One said: “We feel used and let down. Our future has been hanging in the balance since the new contracts were signed weeks ago.

“We were encouraged by our managers to campaign against the council and attend meetings. We stuck up for Lyndhurst.

“They have been planning this for days and they have not told us a thing. We have only heard rumours.”

In a legal letter written to the council days before it went under, Lyndhurst blamed recent controversial contract changes, and asked for an urgent meeting in a last ditch-bid to avoid liquidation.

The letter said: “The implications of making staff redundant will be that some 525 service users will not receive care from the company.

“This may result in life-threatening situations for those service users that have a high degree of dependency on the care provided.

“The company has attempted on a number of occasions to raise these concerns with Liverpool City Council. Despite these efforts, no constructive response has been received.

“The company wishes to avoid any liquidation proceedings and would seek to meet with LCC as a matter of urgency to try and resolve this situation.” But this week no compromise agreement was reached, and the company will now fold.

The carers and services users are now being divided between three of the city’s other care providers, Merseycare Julianne, Homecarers and Local Solutions.

Managers at the firms and council officers are said to have been working around the clock over the last three days to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

The council says that where possible, patients will be transferred to a new company with their existing carer.

Officers were last night contacting as many carers as possible to tell them which company they will be working for from tomorrow.

Executive director of community services Tony Hunter said: “Our first priority is the safety and care of our clients.

“I am pleased that we have been able to work very closely with our other providers, who have shown great professionalism and commitment during this challenging period in agreeing to take on the additional work at extremely short notice.

“Our commitment to providing excellent services will continue throughout this transition period and the city council and its contractors will be providing advice and support, and overseeing the entire process until all of the necessary arrangements are in place.

“Every single person who receives care from Lyndhurst will be receiving a letter from the city council outlining the process and how the new arrangements will be implemented.”

The city’s home care industry warned its future was unstable after their contracts were changed.

The terms meant that carers faced a pay cut of up to 30% and in the weeks after the companies signed up, staff walked out in their droves.

But last night, one home care manager said the future would be more certain for the other companies. He said: “A major problem for all of the companies was that we were given less hours on a lower rate.

“Now the agencies left over have more hours, it means we will become more viable.”

GMB regional organiser Karen Atkinson said last night that unions and staff were still in the dark about the developments.

She said: “We asked Lyndhurst only this morning what was going on and they denied they were closing.

“The staff are very distressed. Some of them say they have not received the right wages in two weeks.”

Cllr Roz Gladden, Labour chairwoman of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said: “This has been on the cards for weeks and the council did not listen and now there is chaos. This is no way to run a service.”

Last night, the director of Lyndhurst, Len Collins, was unavailable for comment.

* SERVICE users or carers who would like information about arrangements made for their care or future employment should call the city council’s Careline call centre on 0151 233 3019.

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    Council leader Warren Bradley said that some individual councillors’ behaviour was “appalling” and not fitting of a democratic society.




    Roger: This is not a good report for us is it Warren?
    Fireman:Well Roger we’ve got to put it into perspective really haven’t we and remember where Liverpool was and that’s not thinking back 10 years. Liverpool has come an awful long way. The people of Liverpool were asking for lower Council Tax and the Liberal Democrats have delivered that and they also wanted better services and you look at the services that are now delivered by Liverpool City Council. If we look at the most vulnerable either elderly or the Children’s Services the social care we are now delivering at a level that Liverpool has never delivered before. We also look at the bread and butter your schools, your sports centres, your libraries, One Stop Shops in communities, our parks, we’ve got 13 green flag parks. It’s like a new home to me when you get an old dilapidated derelict building you’ve got to bring it up to a standard and I think Liverpool City Council under the Liberal Democrats have certainly done that and I am certain if we did a survey of people in the City do you want Liverpool City Council to sit on £20m worth of reserves or do you want the City Council delivering front line services that affect the most vulnerable and people’s lives in the City. I think that they would vote with their feet and say that we support the policies of Liverpool City Council. We’ve got to look at the financial regulations put in by Government and if you want my opinion about this Roger it is purely political.
    Roger: Well come on, you know the Audit Commission is not a political body
    Fireman: Well with respect Roger and I would beg to differ on that
    Roger: Well how can it be a political, it’s an independent organisation?
    Fireman: We can say everything is independent to a certain extent but you know you look at what we’ve got at the moment in Liverpool and we’re delivering top quality services.
    Roger: But the problem with this is that you’ve got an overall score rating of 2 which was adequate performance into 05, overall score in 06 was 2 which is adequate performance.
    This year it is down to 1 below minimum requirements inadequate performance.
    Fireman: Based around financial regulations…
    Roger: Yes I’m talking about the financial…..
    Fireman: Laid down by government. I mean that’s what you’ve got to remember. Don’t try and muddy the waters and say oh this is about Liverpool City Council and their overall performance. It’s not. You look at the issue that we’ve done about achievements. Liverpool scoring 3-4 on achievement at the moment through the Audit Commission.
    Roger: I didn’t know that.
    (EDs: Pitiful, just pitiful.)
    Fireman: And we do seem to always go to the negatives when we’re looking for something like this.
    Roger: The District Auditor was pretty negative about you wasn’t he and…
    Fireman: No, I have got to say Roger I would love to have £50m in reserves. I would also love not to have to put additions of £7m into adult social care and £2-3m into children’s social care. The facts are we have got to do that because of the pressures that are on Liverpool at the moment.
    Roger: So are other Councils….
    Fireman: I’m not willing as Leader of this Council to take away care to the most vulnerable to allow it to sit in reserve. I am not willing to do that and I will go to the stake on that the people of the City. Liverpool now is only one of a handful of Councils up and down the country that is providing moderate care to the most vulnerable people in the City. Now to give people an idea of what moderate care is that is home care. These people who’ve got no family to support them and require a visit in the morning or a visit in the evening to make sure they’re ok to help them to take the pills, to make sure that they’ve got the food. Most Councils up and down this country have removed that care. Liverpool City Council is still allowing our most vulnerable people our sort of care. Now is that wrong, is that wrong?
    Roger: Now no one would argue that’s wrong but everyone. But many people are affected by housing. Housing is really poor isn’t it. I mean you are so poor you’ve had to hand it over to a different group to run it.
    Fireman: Well with respect Roger, with respect, you’ve got to know what the Housing Corporation have done and in partnership with the Government again it’s easy to say it’s the Council, in partnership with the Government we’ve tackled head on through the Pathfinder areas of the inner core of the City some of the housing inefficiencies of the City. That hasn’t happened over the last five years that’s happened over 30 or 40 years. The problems in Norris Green in housing were prevalent 30 or 40 years ago and weren’t tackled. As an Authority we’ve challenged what wasn’t tackled and we’ve challenged it head on and I opened a couple of weeks ago with Flo Clucas and Marilyn Fielding with Cobalt Housing the first phase of Norris Green. We’ve transformed that area and its got houses for sale and social housing in Norris Green that people are seeking to live in now. We’ve got in a core Edge Hill, Kensington, Kirkdale the same issues that have been there for 30 or 40 years that we’re tackling now hand in hand with the Government. I’m not taking the credit for it and the Government isn’t. We’ve got a schools’ programme that is second to none. Liverpool’s young people are now achieving at the national average. I want it higher than national average to give new opportunity but again I’ll say I’m not going to suit accountants’ financial regulations in London and leave £millions sitting in reserve while we have still got the challenges Liverpool has got and I think people you know.
    Roger: Do you think it was a mistake to keep Council Tax down or freeze it over the past few years?
    Fireman: Well isn’t it ironic Roger how last week John Healey said how Liverpool is charging £101 a head...
    Roger: Because its inefficiencies….
    Fireman: Well we have taken £150m worth of inefficiencies out of our budget over the last 10 years. We’ve kept Council tax down which is exactly what Government policy is and is exactly what John Healey is saying. Councillor Joe Anderson is saying something completely different to the people of Liverpool that he will put taxes up to build reserves to put in reserve well again this administration this Lib Dem administration is not going to tax for the sake of taxing to leave money sitting in reserve. We will build up the reserves over a period of years and then we will be able to tackle some of the other issues that we’ve got to do. We recognise the health inequalities. To improve health inequalities we’ve got to have a real stable economy offering real opportunity and raising the aspirations in them poorer communities. You cannot do that leaving millions and millions of pounds laying in reserves and this administration will continue the robust financial management that we’ve done. We’ll carry on delivering…
    Roger: If it was that robust we wouldn’t have this problem of £20m overdrawn on Capital of Culture.
    Fireman: Roger, lets put things into hindsight. We are still delivering front line services. We are still…
    Roger: It’s about £20m overall that we’re short this year – now that’s not robust management
    Fireman: But Roger we are going through a budget setting process. Every Local Authority up and down the country is in the same process as us. I remember reading about Wirral being £50m short. Other Local Authorities. I meet the core city leaders who are £40-£50m short exactly the same as Liverpool . And let’s not forget I haven’t come on here to knock the Government I’ve come on here to say that I believe we’ve got a robust financial programme in place that is going to deal with the shortfall. We’ve delivered year on year but I’ll say again I am not going to allow millions and millions of pounds to lay in reserve. Cut front line services to the most vulnerable and then say that’s acceptable. Nor as Leader of this Council am I going to allow Council Tax to go through the roof again which will drive the inability to bring further investment into this City. While the Lib Dems have been in control we’ve brought Council Tax down, we’ve brought renewed confidence and we’ve brought real investment that will bring opportunities to the most vulnerable and I think that is the most important and I think the people of this City will stand full square with us on that. I’m proud of what we’ve delivered in this City over the last 10 years and Capital of Culture is part of that."