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Disabled care home residents evicted in charity’s dispute with councils | Social care

Residents of severely disabled care homes have been evicted in a series of disputes between one of the UK’s best-known care charities and a number of local authorities who have been accused by the charity of refusing to cover rising care costs.

In the latest sign of the UK’s deepening welfare crisis, Leonard Cheshire said it had taken a drastic step to push out vulnerable residents with complex disabilities because council funders had refused to meet fee increases that reflected rising wage, energy and food costs.

The charity, which supports 3,000 people in 120 care services across the UK, said it had in recent years spent millions of pounds supporting care services inadequately funded by councils, but could no longer afford it.

It said it had filed 11 notices of eviction for contracts under negotiation without an agreement since February. Two of these notices were rescinded after the board later agreed to pay an additional fee. About a dozen residents of the charity nationwide are facing eviction orders.

The threat of eviction highlighted the unsustainable reliance of local authority-funded disabled care services on handouts running into the millions from charities. This year many charities have funded staff pay increases from their own reserves in order to retain staff and keep care services viable.

Learning disability charity Mencap said it did not evict any of its service users because it generally did not own the properties where they lived, but it did support one in five of its state-funded care packages, which support 4,000 people, at a potential cost in the millions to charities.

“Social care desperately needs a long-term investment and we cannot continue like this,” said Jackie O’Sullivan, Mencap’s director of communications, advocacy and activism. “We depend on the goodwill of good people to keep the sector afloat and the system is clearly broken.”

A physically disabled resident of Leonard Cheshire said he felt trapped in the middle of a hardball game between the charity and his council funder after being told by the care home manager last month that he faced eviction.

Keith Harris, 47, who is paralyzed from the neck down and requires 24-hour care, said he blamed the central government’s persistent underfunding of social care for his plight. “There needs to be some level of NHS funding for social care; it needs to be treated like a national treasure too,” he said.

Harris, an avid sailor who uses a tongue switch to operate his chair, computer and boat, said his 30-day notice to vacate came out of the blue from the directors of Leonard Cheshire Care Home in Somerset.

He had been staying at the house for over a year, after moving to be closer to his family, when he was told that Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP), which funds the £90,000-a-year care package, had refused to pay the estimated cost of his care.

He said: We did not discuss with me what I wanted or my needs. I was never part of the discussion and it went on without me for eight months.”

At the eleventh hour, an agreement was reached between Leonard Cheshire and the BCP, and the threat of eviction was withdrawn. Harris believes that this was due to pressure on the council by his family, who lobbied hard at local politicians, and the intervention of Harris’ local MP, James Heppy.

A BCP spokesperson said: “We have been working with Leonard Cheshire for several months to agree to increase fee levels for their services and are disappointed that they have threatened eviction in this case. However, we have reached agreement with the provider on funding and have apologized to the family for any distress we have caused.”

Evictions are examples of the increasingly common phenomenon of ‘wasted contracts’, where carers stop providing a care service because they believe the level of council funding they receive can no longer guarantee basic safety and quality standards. Almost two-thirds of English councils have reported contract buy-backs in their area this year.

Although it is unlikely that any of the evicted residents will become homeless – their council or the NHS funder has a duty to provide alternative care – there are concerns that relocation will disrupt care for vulnerable service users, and that cheaper alternative arrangements will inevitably be of better quality. poor or based on it. away from their family support network.

Activists said the uncertainty and emotional stress experienced by people with disabilities, learning disabilities and autism and their families as a result of eviction threats is unacceptable. “Keith’s story is a stark example of the enormous human cost for people with disabilities, as a direct result of the government’s continued failure to adequately fund social care,” said Fadela Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK.

Leonard Cheshire said removing council-funded residents from their homes was a “last resort” but left him no choice as its financial viability was threatened by the failure of some local authorities to agree to fee increases. She said she would never end support for the population without a viable alternative.

A spokesperson for the charity said the situation reflected years of chronic under-investment in social care. Councils urgently need more funding from the government to prevent such situations from occurring. Social care providers are facing soaring costs, and as the charity has simply not been able to support placements.”

Leonard Cheshire specializes in providing care to people with physical and learning disabilities and those with autism. Their residential care packages can require 24 hour bespoke care, often with several highly skilled carers in attendance. The average package costs £85,000 per annum but can be up to £150,000.

The charity, set up by RAF hero Leonard Cheshire after World War Two, said some councils had refused to contract for fee increases despite unprecedented increases in staff wage costs and energy and fuel costs this year. One unnamed board has now frozen any increases in contract values ​​for three consecutive years.

Although carers are keen to acknowledge that councils operate mainly in good faith and are severely constrained by financial pressures, privately they say a handful of authorities do not. One council that was refusing to fund fixed-cost sponsorship contracts was described as “far from reality”.

For years, Leonard Cheshire and many other large disability charities, including Mencap and United Response, have supported specialist care services to the tune of millions of pounds, they say, to safeguard the quality of the services they provide.

A government spokesperson said: “We prioritized health and social care in the autumn statement, providing up to £7.5 billion over the next two years to support adult social care services and improve access to care for the most vulnerable in our society – the largest funding increase in history.

“Our annual local recruitment campaign, Made With Care, encourages people to take up a career in adult social care and we are investing £15m to increase international recruitment.”

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