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Neath Port Talbot Council branded ‘heartless’ for evicting care home residents 

Neath Port Talbot Council

NEATH PORT TALBOT Council has now revealed its reasoning behind ordering the removal of around 70 residents from a local care home, including a 100-year-old woman who had to be wheeled out on a hospital bed.

A council statement said it was due to what they described as “concerns relating to the delivery of care” which were recently discovered following an investigation at the site.

The local authority terminated its contract with Hollins Care Centre based in Cimla in October, and gave 90 days notice for alternative living arrangements to be found for the residents.

Around 90 members of staff are likely be made redundant following the move which staff said at the time came out of the blue.

The council decision has been branded as “heartless” by some, but the council said it was a “last resort”.

A spokesperson for the authority said a number of statutory and regulatory organisations had taken the view that basic standards of care were not being met at the home, with concerns that included insufficient staffing levels, poor hygiene and a lack of dignity towards residents.

They also added that the authority did not have confidence that the home’s management was able to make the required changes within appropriate time-scales.

A joint statement on behalf of the council and Swansea Bay University Health Board said: “The welfare and wellbeing of care home residents are of paramount importance to both Neath Port Talbot Council and Swansea Bay University Health Board.

“The Hollins is not a care home that is operated by the council but one where the council commissions placements and when the council commissions placements at a privately managed care home, regular reviews and information sharing takes place to ensure standards are met to safeguard residents.

“This involves working closely with the owner, families and wider multi-agency staff members who have an involvement in the home and in recent times we have placed the council’s own care staff into the home to offer further support.

“As a last resort, when the council becomes aware of concerns such as standards not being met, action is then taken by the council to safeguard those placed there.

“The council is ceasing its existing arrangement with the home in a managed way, and is working with the health board to relocate residents over the coming weeks and months.

“We understand the concerns and anxieties of residents and their families at this time, and our shared focus is on ensuring a smooth transition for residents into a new care home, working closely with them and their families.”

The announcement has since led to heartbreaking scenes over the past few weeks that have seen residents such as 100-year old Lillian ‘Lil’ Jones moved out of the home on a stretcher to be re-located to other accommodation elsewhere.

Her daughter Eira Young said at the time: “It’s terrible, she doesn’t want to go because the carers here are so lovely. She’s 100 years old, she’s 101 next month. She loves it here, this is her home.

“Yes, it might need a bit of a refurb and new carpets, but the carers here are wonderful. I’d rather have the home as it is but with lovely care, than a home with five star facilities and different carers.”

Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, the body which represents over 500 independent care providers in Wales, has condemned what it claimed was the “heartless” way Neath Port Talbot Council had gone about closing the Hollins Care Centre, given that it was not shut by Care Inspectorate Wales, after a review was conducted as recently as June.

Mr Kreft said: “This is a very worrying development because this home hasn’t been closed by the Care Inspectorate Wales and one would have thought in a case like this the regulator would have had concerns.

“In fact, the CIW report paints a picture of an improving situation at the Hollins despite the challenges of the pandemic and the outrageously low fees paid by the council with the only complaints that the building is a bit run down – hardly surprising given the level of fees the council are paying.”

He added: “At the heart of this we have to think of the residents and their families and some of those people are very elderly and very vulnerable and they’re now having to be moved many miles from where they want to be. They’ve effectively been evicted by the council.

“At the same time we’re coming up to Christmas and we’re saying to a large workforce we’re sorry but you haven’t got jobs. This has been very badly handled and whoever is responsible for this, I think the chief executive and the leader of the council should take a very close look at this and find out what lessons need to be learned.”

We have contacted Cherish Care Homes, which operates The Hollins Care Centre, for comment.

But director of the care home, Ben Jenkins, said in October: “On Monday morning, at about 11.30am, two ladies from the council arrived and hand-delivered a letter. It said the council was invoking Clause 14.1 of our contract which says it can close us down with 90 days notice without a cause.

“We were informed of an Escalating Concerns Notification and we’ve had people [council assessors etc] all over us the last three weeks, but we’ve not been told of anything significant that would lead to this closure.”