Wanted: volunteers to help rescue victims of Southern Cross care crisis

VOLUNTARY sector organisations could be drafted in to rescue care homes run by Southern Cross under plans being discussed by the Scottish Government.

First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday reiterated his pledge that there would be a "continuation of care" for residents living in Scottish homes managed by the troubled care provider, which manages 98 properties north of the Border - and said that turning to the third sector for support could provide a solution.

In a briefing at Bute House yesterday, Mr Salmond said cabinet secretary for health Nicola Sturgeon had held talks with members of the voluntary sector about taking control of some of the homes - if Southern Cross was unable to maintain its responsibility over its entire portfolio.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"In Scotland we have a substantial amount of third sector involvement in care and I'm not precluding that that might be the solution if Southern Cross withdraws from some care homes," he said.

"Nicola Sturgeon is meeting Southern Cross next week. A continuation of care will be provided for residents of the homes. Talks have have been held with the third sector and Nicola Sturgeon is co-ordinating that."

About 40 per cent of all social care provision in Scotland is currently carried out by the third sector, which yesterday claimed that it would be able to provide a "much more sustainable model" than that offered by Southern Cross.

Southern Cross recently warned it was in a "critical financial condition" as it unveiled a 311 million loss in the six months to 31 March.

Mr Salmond's statement came as it emerged that the Darlington-based firm had earmarked a number of homes to be returned to their landlords, which could cause disruption for thousands of residents.

It is thought that 47 homes have been identified by Southern Cross as ones which could be handed back to landlords in the near future, while a further 85 are likely to undergo the same treatment over the next five years.

"The overwhelming objective must be to ensure a continuation of care," added Mr Salmond. "However, the ownership of homes might be an issue, as in some cases Southern Cross does not own the homes."

Earlier this week, the firm revealed plans to cut 3,000 jobs. It also plans to reduce its annual rent bill from 202.3m to 137.5m and said it would slash the rent it pays to landlords by 30 per cent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Christopher Fisher, chairman of Southern Cross, said: "No decision has been taken to close any of our homes. Our primary concern in this matter remains the welfare of the residents living in our homes."He added: "The financial restructuring will not affect the provision of quality care in any of our homes."

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said: "In the short term, third sector organisations may be able to deliver care services with a much more sustainable model than Southern Cross. Our sector is consistently rated higher for adult care than either the public or private sector."

Annie Gunner Logan, the director of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers, which represents more than 70 third sector social care providers in Scotland, said that there was a strong precedent in Scotland for care to be provided by the voluntary sector..