Sanctuary Group, who Channel 4’s Dispatches recently described as ‘landlords from hell’, took over responsibility for running Westminster Council’s Care Homes as well as a number of local NHS run facilities in 2015. Within less than two years over 40% of staff were being paid the London Living Wage, down from 100% when run by Westminster and the situation has continued to get worse with staff leaving and being replaced by those on poverty wages.

Sanctuary whose Chief Exec was paid £365,000 a year in 2018 claim they can’t afford to meet the requirements of the Government’s revised national minimum wage (‘the national living wage’ a mere £8.21 per hour compared to the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour) so instead of curbing executive largess they are trying to further cut the pay and conditions of staff in Westminster who transferred to Sanctuary (under TUPE) in order to ‘harmonise’ pay and conditions across the country, putting further pressure on services in Westminster and balancing the books on the back of hard pressed local workers. Cuts being proposed include: the loss of weekend work enhancement payments, the loss of shift allowance, changes to sick pay, a reduction in annual leave, deduction for breaks and the freezing of pension rights.

It is no surprise then that the quality of care being provide by Sanctuary in Westminster has been in decline, with three of their facilities in Westminster deemed as ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission. The large Westminster Council owned care home at Carlton Deane was deemed to require improvement in all its areas in its 2019 inspection, saying the service was not always safe, they were failing to ensure people, safely received their medicines and management was inconsistent, amongst other concerns and despite previous warnings from the Commission in summer 2018.

Also in 2019 the CQC found that Garside House on Regency Street in South Westminster was found to be requiring improvement overall and in all categories (effective, responsive, caring and well-led) except safety. The Butterworth Centre in St John’s Wood also was found to require improvement when it was inspected in 2017. Both of these were formerly run by the NHS.

Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “It is scandalous that Sanctuary should seek to further undermine the working conditions of hard pressed Westminster Care Home staff and put even greater pressure on the already struggling services they provide to local residents. Sanctuary must not use Westminster Council as a piggy bank to fund its activities elsewhere.

Westminster Council should urgently explore options to bring its care home services back in house, especially if Sanctuary won’t treat residents and staff with the respect they deserve.”

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