Two Kent care homes recently criticised by the Care Quality Commission have closed amid claims that staff and residents have only been given four weeks’ notice to find new jobs or live elsewhere.
Orchard Care Homes, which runs Ashbury Court and Norfolk House in Westgate-on-Sea near Margate, said the two residential homes required long-term investment to bring them up to standard, which was not “financially viable”.
“The homes require significant and long-term investment to bring them up to the standards we demand as a company”
Orchard Care Homes spokeswoman
It said the closures were not related to CQC inspections, which resulted in both homes being placed in special measures at different points in the past couple of years.
The company also said all staff had secured alternative employment and that it expected to find new accommodation for residents.
Ashbury Court, which has 37 rooms, was rated inadequate by the CQC in September following an unannounced inspection in July.
The regulator found a series of problems including people being at risk of harm and abuse due to the manager not acting on safeguarding incidents – as well as residents not receiving their medicines.
The home was already in special measures from when the CQC visited at the end of 2016 and the regulator said it would continue to keep it under review following the July inspection.
“Our priority is to make sure that our residents have somewhere to go to and we are currently working on that”
Kent County Council spokeswoman
Meanwhile Norfolk House, which hosts up to 30 older people, was rated as “requires improvement” in June, after previously being assessed as inadequate in 2016.
At this latest visit, the CQC found while some improvements had been made other problems remained, such as medicines not always being stored correctly and concerns about mental capacity records.
Kent County Council funds 15 residents at Ashbury Court out of the 20 that currently live there. Since January it has restricted new people from moving to the home due to safeguarding issues and concerns about poor practice.
The council confirmed it also funds 17 residents at Norfolk House out of the 21 that live there.
A spokeswoman for the local authority said it was now working closely with residents and their families to help find them alternative homes.
The GMB union claimed that staff and residents had been given just four weeks to make alternative plans, which left residents in limbo and staff out of work.
GMB regional organiser Frank Macklin said that Orchard Care was about to “walk away from their responsibilities to the residents that they are contracted to care for”.
“All staff have secured alternative employment. All residents except one now have alternative placements”
Orchard Care Homes spokeswoman
The union is calling on Kent County Council to get involved in the dispute and is planning a public meeting.
But a spokeswoman for the council said: “Our priority is to make sure that our residents have somewhere to go to and we are currently working on that.”
The question of what happened to staff was a matter for the care homes, she said.
A spokeswoman for Orchard Care Homes said: “All staff have secured alternative employment. All residents except one now have alternative placements and we are confident that all residents will have alternative placements well within time.”
“This [the closures] is not a decision we have taken lightly.
“The homes require significant and long-term investment to bring them up to the standards we demand as a company, which is not financially viable,” added the spokeswoman.
Other options including a sale of the homes had been considered but in the end closure was the only feasible option, she said.