Fight to save Liverpool’s new care homes taken to the government

The fight to keep two state-of-the-art Liverpool care homes from closing and leaving 83 vulnerable people scrambling for new homes is being taken to the government.

Last week the shock news arrived that both Milvina House in Everton and Brushwood home in Speke – the first care homes built by Liverpool Council in 25 years – would be closing after less than a year in operation.

Built by the council, the specialist dementia hubs were being run by private care firm Shaw Healthcare, who have said that the homes will have to cease operation in October, citing the increasing number of vacancies because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As well as the 83 displaced residents, the closures have also put 132 workers at risk.

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Families of those affected are campaigning for the homes to remain open – arguing that it is dangerous to try and move so many vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

And they are being backed up in their fight by Liverpool MPs Dan Carden and Maria Eagle, who represent the two constituencies where the homes are based.

The MPs have written to Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick asking for intervention that they believe could keep the homes operational and mean the residents would not have to leave.

Their letter states: "As you will appreciate, this is devastating news for residents, families and staff.

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"Many vulnerable residents who have already been moved recently now face further disruption and uncertainty, and the jobs of 132 workers are at risk.

"We are concerned that our social care sector has been underfunded for too long and it was ill prepared to deal with a public health emergency like coronavirus.

"The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimates that, following a decade of cuts to local government, more than £8bn has been lost from adult social care budgets since 2010 and too many people have been left to cope without the support they need.

"More broadly, we believe that the financialisation of social care has undermined the sector. The reliance on debt-fuelled private providers – particularly those funded by private equity firms – has created a care system which is unstable and vulnerable to shocks. Providers compete for public contracts by cutting costs, often holding down pay, terms and conditions for workers and engaging in tax avoidance."

The two MPs state that with the challenges posed to the sector by an ageing population, Merseyside "can't afford" to lose two state-of-the-art care homes.

They add: "People are understandably wary of their relatives moving into care homes at present because of the impact of covid-19 on care homes.

"However, the need for support for relatives with dementia, which is a specialism of these homes, will only increase over time.

"It is surely wrong that the government should allow the most modern and best of these facilities to disappear because of the pandemic."

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The Labour MPs say that while the city council is working hard on a solution, a decade of cuts to its budget and the additional impact of coronavirus has stretched the local authority's budget to breaking point.

Mr Carden and Ms Eagle have asked for the Secretary of State or his representatives to now meet with local leaders and stakeholders to discuss options to save these two homes.

They also want him to "honour his commitment to meet the funding shortfall facing Liverpool City Council as a result of the pandemic".

Finally, they have asked for the government to provide the funding and support to ultimately keep Millvina House and Brushwood care homes open by allowing them to be taken in house and run by the city council – something that the authority could only afford to do with government intervention.