UNIONS leaders in the North East yesterday demanded a Government rescue package to secure staff at troubled Southern Cross care homes.
The Darlington-based firm has already called on politicians to step in to end “uncertainty” over the future as the company attempts to overcome its financial difficulties.
The company, responsible for looking after 31,000 elderly residents in the UK, including 1,750 in the region, announced yesterday it will now underpay its rent as it struggles with a £230m annual bill. Southern Cross, which owns 106 care homes in the North East, will pay nearly a third less rent than it is obliged to for the next four months in what is effectively a loan from its landlords.
The firm recently warned it was in a “critical financial condition” as it unveiled a £311m loss in the six months to March 31.
The GMB union, which has around 12,000 members working in Southern Cross homes, urged politicians to move quickly to safeguard the company and its workforce.
Chris Jukes, the union’s regional political officer for the North East, said: “This is first and foremost a human problem, although politicians need to get a grip a find a solution to the funding of social care. It is about the hundreds of residents in the region. The key is that this is their homes we are talking about.”
General secretary Paul Kenny said: “The focus now has to be on what happens to the 31,000 elderly and vulnerable residents in Southern Cross homes across the UK.
“The GMB is calling on politicians across the country to step in and sort out the uncertainty that surrounds the future of these care homes.”
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said the Government was monitoring the situation and is in dialogue with senior managers at Southern Cross.
“Our number one concern is the welfare of the residents living in Southern Cross homes,” he said.
“It is for Southern Cross, its landlords and those with a stake in the business to put in place a plan to put the company on a firm footing. That is what they are doing.”