Coronavirus: Over 20 care homes warn council there may be ‘imminent’ collapse in sector

More than 20 care homes in the northeast of England have sent a legal warning to their local council over fears of a collapse in the sector, Sky News can reveal.

In the letter the care homes have declared what is called “force majeure”, or a major incident.

Sky News obtained a leaked copy sent to North Tyneside Council which warns that if action isn’t taken to provide funding and support within five days the care market in that area will start to collapse.

Coronavirus has taken care homes by storm, killing thousands within weeks. The NHS was bolstered in order to keep it afloat. Were care homes left to fend for themselves? Was equipment diverted? Were the elderly of the country sacrificed to make the strain on our health service lighter?

Special report: The killer in our care homes

The letter has been written on behalf of Care North East which represents 21 of the 31 care homes in North Tyneside.

Its membership accounts for 75% of the residential care capacity and 66.7% of the nursing capacity within North Tyneside.

The legal warning says: “This letter stands as our client’s formal notice to the council that the care home market within North Tyneside is facing imminent collapse due to the council’s conduct in the lead up to and during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“The council has through its own sustained actions over a number of years, weakened and undermined the sustainability of the care home market; such that the market is incapable of withstanding the costs and effects of COVID-19.”

The providers accuse the council of failing to provide sufficient financial support to care homes to meet the additional costs incurred during the pandemic.

The letter goes on: “As vacancies increase due to deaths, with fewer and fewer (if any) new admissions, the running of homes within North Tyneside is becoming increasingly unsustainable.”

It declares that if action is not taken within five days the market will start to collapse.

The letter says additional 5% payments are calculated to the exclusion of those residents who fund their own care provision, yet who equally require COVID-19 care and protection.

When you declare a “force majeure” you are essentially freeing both parties from their obligations under the contract due to an extraordinary event or circumstance.

It frees both parties from the risk of being sued under the contract.

Sky News asked Care England, the largest representative body for social care in the UK, to comment on the leaked letter.

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Chief executive Martin Green said: “Declaring this force majeure is something that has never really happened before so this tells us that we are in the midst of perhaps the worst situation we have seen in modern times.”

Jacqui Old, director of children’s and adult services at North Tyneside Council, said: “We have listened to the concerns of our providers to see what extra funding and support they may need, as the crisis continues; we are working hard together to keep staff and residents safe.

“We are discussing additional bespoke financial support to care homes.

“Occupancy levels have been affected by the pandemic and we are aware where levels have fallen below where they are ordinarily expected to be. Where this has happened we are working with those providers directly in line with our statutory duty.”

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