Belfast Telegraph

Concern over care homes

by Bob Malcolm

Two care homes in Glengormley face an uncertain future after their parent company claimed that sky- high rents were forcing it out of business.

Care workers union GMB is seeking talks with the Government after English-based company Southern Cross revealed it is being overcharged on rents to the tune of £100m annually. The company has 25 homes in Northern Ireland, including Dunanney and The Glebe, both at Glebe Road, Glengormley.

The company announced on March 14 that its current rent burden was “unsustainable”. It is in talks with officials from the Department of Health and from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills about maintaining proper standards of care for 31,000 elderly residents in its 750 care homes.

GMB fears that elderly residents face the prospect of being made homeless as the company struggles to make rent.

Prime Minister David Cameron has told MPs he will ask the Minister of Health to urgently investigate the matter.

MP Paul Burstow, Minister of State for Care Services at the Department of Health, said: “My officials and those at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are talking to Southern Cross and KPMG, who are advising Southern Cross on delivering its restructuring plan.

“It is Southern Cross’s responsibility to deliver on the plan they have for turning round their |financial difficulties.

“We are being very clear with them that we look to them to maintain service continuity and quality of care while they do this. My principal concern is for the safety and well-being of the residents of the care homes that might be affected.”

GMB is blaming the situation on the main landlord for the homes, the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), which owns Harrods.

Alan Perry, GMB organiser, is demanding a meeting with government. He said: “We want to know what exactly it is doing to stop this money meant to pay for care for the UK elderly ending up tax free in offshore tax havens.

“We want to ask what exactly the contingency plans are if Southern Cross and the Government fail to cut the rents and Southern Cross has to go into administration.”

A spokesperson from Southern Cross Healthcare declined to be drawn on specifics but said it was changing the arrangements for rent payments.

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