“The Stormont Executive is scrambling in response to public pressure after following criminal Tory policy abandoning care homes at the onset of the pandemic. Health Minister Robin Swann announced £11.7 million in funding to care homes to help properly pay workers on sick leave, to provide extra support for cleaning costs, to purchase specialist equipment and to support the widespread use of tablet devices in care homes.
Resources protecting residents and workers is to be welcomed. However, much more scrutiny is needed. The vast majority of care homes are private and run to make profits. Some are very profitable but often workers are poorly paid and whistle-blowers have documented how corners are cut in resident care. Is the Executive planning to simply handover public money to bail-out millionaire care home bosses ? How can that be right or acceptable? Care home owners were already effectively bailed-out by the Executive during the pandemic with PPE and with health service workers. Are care home bosses receiving public money committing to raise workers pay? With many workers trapped on Universal Credit because of the pandemic and many others facing uncertainty over their jobs – why are we handing millions more in public money to private owners?
When families in Derry were forced to organise public meetings demanding action in local care homes MLAs from Sinn Féin and the SDLP told them to work with the system, work with owners and work with the regulatory bodies. It was clear then and it is even more clear now that the private care system is broken and ‘working with the system’ was going to go nowhere. The reality is that parties constituting the Stormont Executive have protected a broken system encouraging profiteering at the expense of residents, families and workers.
People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin was threatened with libel action by Owen Mor Care Home bosses for speaking out on issues raised by families, workers and trade unions. It’s clear millionaire care home bosses have gotten away with intimidating families, workers and whistleblowers because they’ve known they can depend on the protection of the political establishment here. Owen Mor bosses quickly dropped their threat to Cllr Harkin when they realised they would face a sustained campaign that would in fact put their practices and the entire way the private care system functions on trial. And to this day they have refused repeated requests from the Derry and Strabane Council for public accountability.
The Covid-19 crisis has underscored why privatisation of care homes for profit doesn’t work and is no longer sustainable. The Stormont Executive can longer protect profiteering at the expense of residents, families and workers. The Executive should end the bail-outs for millionaire bosses whose workers earn poverty pay. The case for returning care homes to the health service is clear and a matter of urgency.”