The modern Southern Cross Care Home building in Walthamstow, East London, today stands empty. What’s happened to its vulnerable residents – have they been transferred to hospitals, unsuited to their special needs, taking up beds designed for the temporarily sick? Or the minimum-waged carers who tended for them: are they now swelling the ranks of the unemployed?
When Britain’s largest care home operator Southern Cross went out of business this summer – the end result of frenzied speculation - 31,000 residents (and their relatives) in 750 homes across the country and more than 43,000 employees were left in a state of acute anxiety. 3,000 staff lost their jobs immediately.
While implementing major cuts in services and budgets, government and local authorities issued placebo assurances of an “orderly transfer” of residents and staff. But private care operator BUPA estimates that some 100,000 care home places could be “lost” in the coming 10 years while the number of people over 75 is expected to rise from 2008’s figure of 4.8 million to 7.9 million by 2028.
The situation of the elderly being ‘cared’ for in their own homes is also bleak: state quango, the Quality Care Commission, this summer issued a damning report on services provided, citing cases of the infirm being left alone for up to 17 hours a day, of ill-trained and under-paid carers forced by time restraints to choose between changing their “customers” soiled clothes or feeding them.
The crisis-ridden state can’t and won’t take responsibility for this mess – in fact it’s the source of it - while private companies say there’s not enough profit in it for them and shut up shop.
While youth unemployment soars, there’s nothing but misery at the end of their lives for millions of the elderly. Capitalism can’t cope with them and doesn’t care.
JJ Gaunt, 23/08/11.