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Four Seasons collapse another symptom of crisis in care sector

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The news that Four Seasons Health Care has collapsed into administration raises fears for thousands of elderly residents.

Four Seasons houses 22,000 people in 322 homes across the country – the biggest care home failure since Southern Cross collapsed in 2011. Four Seasons had reportedly struggled with cuts to local authority care fees and rising costs and had repeatedly warned about its long-term stability.

Last year, Allied Healthcare, which supports 13,000 people, said it too was struggling with debts, blaming low fees paid by councils. The Care Quality Commission later issued a notice saying it had serious doubts about Allied Healthcare’s future.

Four Season insists residents will be unaffected by the news. While the company has appointed professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal to handle the administration of the holding companies, the group says it has secured funding to ensure continuity of care while it seeks a new owner.

Sarah Cunliffe, a lawyer specialising in care home abuse and neglect claims, notes that the BBC reports only around a fifth of Four Seasons’ operations are privately funded, meaning the majority in their homes are council or local authority funded. Sarah reassures residents and their families that the administrators will keep things going while they try and find a buyer for all the care homes, so there should be nothing for residents or relatives to worry about immediately:

‘Even if their care home is earmarked for closure, residents won't be left out on the street. If the local authority pays for some or all of a person’s care, it is responsible for finding new accommodation. Residents can choose their preferred new home should that happen, provided it suits their needs and doesn't cost more than the council has agreed to spend.'

In the event of closure, those residents who pay all of their care costs privately would need to find a new home themselves. The council may give suggestions about what’s available and should at least carry out a care assessment to identify need and what alternative accommodation may be suitable.

Sarah concludes:

‘It is possible to sympathise entirely with care providers who say they require more funding. That is an issue the government and ultimately the nation will have to face as the population continues to grow older. Whatever the reasons for so many providers facing financial difficulties, vulnerable residents have a right to health, dignity and the knowledge that they have a secure place to call home.’

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