Care homes in England lose 1,600 beds in six-month period

More than 1,600 care home beds have been lost in just six months, as worsening staff shortages and the financial strain after two years of the Covid pandemic have caused a net loss of 134 homes in England.

[According to this article, there are, currently, only five places available in Cornwall with about 200 people needing them,  including those awaiting discharge from hospital.]

Robert Booth www.theguardian.com 

The deregistrations, which were not outweighed by new openings, came as staff shortages almost doubled, to 11% of the workforce, from August to the end of January, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Care Quality Commission.

Three-quarters of care homes that responded to a survey also told the regulator they had been unable to recruit staff, the biggest problem being the mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policy, which was scrapped at the start of February. Obligatory double vaccination for social care staff was introduced on 11 November 2021 and about 40,000 staff left their jobs, sparking anger among care home operators who said the staff had been unfairly singled out for the mandate.

Two-fifths of care homes now believe a lack of staff is having a negative impact on care. CQC figures show there was also a surge in incidents affecting the health, safety and welfare of residents in December, which were caused by staffing issues. The area with the biggest reduction in care home registrations was south-east England.

The crisis in staffing has been compounded by Covid outbreaks in care homes, which have forced the organisations to stop admitting new residents. It has increased pressure on homecare services, which are also struggling with their own acute workforce crisis.

In Cornwall the family of a man with advanced multiple sclerosis urgently seeking a care home place was told this week by officials that there were only five places available in the county and that about 200 people needed them, including those awaiting discharge from hospital.

Shelagh Young said her brother, Bob Young, had been left for periods sitting in urine and excrement at his home, and was waiting for a respite care placement. The 58-year-old had wanted to stay at home, previously declining a move to a home. He had had sporadic help from community nurses and a volunteer charity but on Monday told his sister this was “no kind of life”.

She said she sympathised with the county officials who were trying to get him help, but they told her the shortages were linked to a deficit of care workers. Cornwall county council was contacted for comment.

Vic Rayner, the chief executive of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit care operators, said the CQC figures had to be a wake-up call. “We have been warning about this staffing shortage for months now and this data may be the tip of the iceberg. Our members have been telling us that it is proving harder and harder to recruit staff, which is exacerbating the workforce pressures,” she said.

“There is an urgent need to think strategically about the social care needed within communities, and to plan and resource the social care workforce in a way that ensures that people can exercise their right to high-quality social care when and where they need it.”

Kate Terroni, the CQC chief inspector of adult social care, told the CQC board that after nearly 1,900 inspections since the start of December, the area in need of most improvement was found to be infection control.

Families of care home residents are now also concerned that lateral flow tests for visitors to the establishments will no longer be free of charge. The Rights for Residents campaign group described the change as an immoral “pay per view” policy and are demanding reinstatement of the free tests.

CQC reported that it also investigated allegations of blanket visiting bans at 82 homes in recent months, in breach of government guidelines.

Police were called to No 10 after partygoer set off alarm

A police officer interrupted a Christmas party at Downing Street last year after revellers accidentally set off an alarm, Scotland Yard has confirmed.

“‘Ello, ‘Ello, ‘Ello… now what ‘ave we got ‘ere, eh?” – Owl

George Grylls, Fiona Hamilton www.thetimes.co.uk (Extract of salient new material)

Sir Stephen House, the deputy commissioner of the Met, said that an officer witnessed the gathering on December 18, 2020 attended by about 50 people and was speaking to detectives investigating Downing Street parties.

The revelation came after the Met sent questionnaires to 88 people, including the prime minister, accused of attending lockdown gatherings

House told City Hall’s police and crime committee that the officer had already given evidence to Sue Gray, the senior civil servant tasked with investigating lockdown gatherings.

House said: “One officer was involved in responding with a civilian custodian, who works for No 10, to a silent alarm which we believe had been pressed in error. That officer was spoken to by Sue Gray and will be spoken to by ourselves.”

House rejected criticisms, however, that officers turned a blind eye to gatherings in No 10 and said their duty was to prevent a terrorism attack.

“I think maybe people have the idea that there’s tipsy revellers walking down Whitehall with Christmas hats on and blowing poppers, carrying bottles of clanking wine,” he said.

“Many of the circumstances that we’re investigating were events that took place at the end of the working day or as an adjunct to the working day for people who were already in the building and had been there since 7am or 8am.

“Armed officers do not routinely walk through the Cabinet Office or No 10.”

However, he added that if officers knew what was happening and should have intervened “we will follow up on that”.

House said that the investigation was “operating at pace” and was still expected to take weeks rather than months.

He said that detectives could send out fresh questionnaires if new suspects emerged in the answers they received.

Some alleged partygoers have already sent their questionnaires back and their “reasonable excuse” is being reviewed. House said the Met would start issuing fines if the excuse did not stack up.

Boris Johnson has become the first British prime minister to be questioned under caution by the police, a leaked form appeared to confirm last night.

The Met is sending questionnaires to 88 people accused of attending lockdown gatherings as part of a criminal investigation into a dozen Downing Street parties in 2020 and last year.

In the forms, which are equivalent to a police interview, people are asked to explain and justify their presence at gatherings….

200 Russian millionaires bought way into UK in seven years since ‘clampdown’

“If they think corrupt elites are threatening our national security they cannot just sweep this under the carpet.” Chris Bryant MP

Reds under the bed or in the bed? – Owl

Martin Williams www.opendemocracy.net

More than 200 Russian millionaires bought their way into the UK with controversial “golden visas” in the seven years since the government pledged to stop corrupt oligarchs exploiting the system, openDemocracy can reveal.

The scheme was finally closed altogether last week, as diplomatic relations with Russia reached breaking point. It had allowed 13,000 wealthy elites to jump the immigration queue if they promised to invest millions into British companies.

Home secretary Priti Patel said ending the golden visa scheme would help stop “corrupt elites who threaten our national security and push dirty money around our cities”.

But analysis by openDemocracy shows large numbers of Russian oligarchs continued to use the scheme even after the government claimed to have cleaned it up in April 2015.

Since then, only seven Russian applicants have been rejected, while golden visas have been handed out to 202 Russian elites, each with at least £2m of investments in UK companies.

More than 250 of their family members and dependents were also given visas and can now live in the UK.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs a parliamentary group on Russia, called on the government to review “each and every” visa issued under the scheme.

“If they think corrupt elites are threatening our national security they cannot just sweep this under the carpet,” he told openDemocracy.

“Exploitation” of the golden visa scheme has led the UK to become a “particularly favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money,” according to a landmark report on Russia by the Intelligence and Security Committee in 2020.

“The UK welcomed Russian money, and few questions – if any – were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth,” it said.

A Chatham House report into kleptocracy also described the golden visas as a “national embarrassment”, adding that “serious flaws and loopholes” remained in the system after the 2015 reforms.

It warned: “The UK has a long road ahead to address the risks from its servicing of post-Soviet elites and the suspicious capital that flows into the country in its billions.”

Russian nationals are the second largest group to have benefited from the golden visa scheme, with about 900 Russian applicants and 1,700 of their dependents being successful. The largest group is Chinese nationals and their families, of whom 4,247 successfully applied for golden visas.

The scheme allows them to circumvent a punishing and tortuous immigration process, as they are seen as “high value” individuals.

In a statement last week, the government said the scheme had been “under constant review” because “some cases had given rise to security concerns, including people acquiring their wealth illegitimately and being associated with wider corruption”.

But more than 200 golden visas were issued last year alone – including 22 to Russian millionaires.

“We are still in the dark about the true extent of abuse of the golden visa scheme,” said Rachel Davies, head of advocacy at Transparency International. “Individuals and their families from high-corruption risk countries were welcomed with open arms and no checks on the source of their wealth, but only a handful of names have ever been made public.”

She added: “Media investigations have shown how some of the visa recipients funded their lavish lifestyles with the proceeds of corruption.”

A review of visas issued under the scheme is due to be published “in the near future”, but opposition MPs have criticised the government for not acting sooner.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “For years the Conservatives failed to stamp out the influence of Russian money in the UK” adding that it had “taken international condemnation of our failures… for the home secretary to act”.

A government spokesperson told openDemocracy: “We keep all visas under review and should any individual be found to have breached their conditions, then we will take action.”

Stricken South West construction giant Midas leaves debts of £22m

South West construction giant Midas has left debts of more than £22m after going into administration – with dozens of creditors unlikely to be paid.

William Telford www.business-live.co.uk

A report by administrators at global business advisory firm Teneo Financial Advisory Ltd reveals a total of £22,091,980 is owed by companies in the Midas group.

And the administrators said: “We do not think that the companies have sufficient property to enable a distribution to be made to unsecured creditors.”

Exeter-headquartered Midas Group Ltd and its subsidiaries Midas Construction Ltd, Midas Retail Ltd, Mi-Space (UK) Ltd, Mi-Space Property Services Ltd, Midas Commercial Developments Ltd and Falmouth Developments Ltd all fell into administration in January 2022.

Work stopped at construction sites across the South West and 303 staff were made redundant. Teneo has now revealed that Midas Construction has left debts of £19,265,284, spread between dozens of creditors.

Mi-Space (UK) Ltd, the group’s housebuilding arm, owes £2,542,533, with Midas Retail owing £22,494 and the overall Midas Group Ltd owing £261,669.

Founded in Devon in 1976, the Midas Group was one of the UK’s largest independent construction and property services providers.

The group delivered a complete range of construction related services, from seven regional offices across the South West and Wales, across numerous sectors including residential, leisure, education, industrial and healthcare.

Midas was recently ranked as the ninth largest private sector firm in the South West, by the Western Morning News Annual Business Guide 2021, with a reported turnover of £291,267,008.

But rumours had been circulating in recent weeks that the company was in financial trouble, after it announced a £2m loss in 2021 – its first deficit in 40 years of trading.

In January, Midas staff were told by calls and emails that the business was going into administration and there would be job losses.

Steve Hindley, group chairman, put the blame on disruption and supply chain price hikes caused by the Covid pandemic, which, he said, caused contracts to be delayed or scrapped.

He said the disruption and supply chain inflation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a number of critical contracts being postponed or cancelled and the resultant impact on the group’s working capital led to severe liquidity pressure and meant the group was no longer able to operate.

Mi-space’s property services arm was sold to the Bell Group in January, bolstering its already strong presence in the South West and Wales, and is therefore not part of the administration process. Airdrie-headquartered Bell is a market leader in the sector and already has offices across the South West in Plymouth, Taunton, Bristol, and South Wales, with plans to open up an office in Exeter in 2022.