Concerns over offshore ownership of Scotland’s care homes

Calls for Scotland to 'clean up the care sector' after concerns raised following coronavirus deaths.

Ten elderly residents have died at Home Farm in Skye.
Ten elderly residents have died at Home Farm in Skye.

Concerns have been raised about the secretive offshore ownership and financial health of some big care providers.

That’s been prompted by elderly residents in care homes accounting for almost half of Scotland’s coronavirus deaths.

Any future inquiry is likely to focus on a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), failure to test staff and residents and why some were sent into homes from hospitals without being tested.

But the crisis has led to calls for Scotland to “clean up the care sector” with a transparency law that would force operators to bring their business structures back into the UK.

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Scotland has around 1100 residential care homes containing close to 38,000 residents. Many of the large providers send their fees – paid by residents, the NHS and councils – offshore to places such as the Cayman Islands.

Financial experts say these complex structures are used to extract “hidden profit” in the form of inflated property rents, debt repayments and management fees to companies with the same ownership.

As part of an STV News special report, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “What these offshore structures are set up to do is to leak profit away from reinvestment in frontline care.

“There’s certainly a growing consensus that we have to clean up the care sector and, in my view, that means putting a stop to these offshore structures which breed secrecy and certainly don’t put the needs of the care home residents and staff first.”

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It’s estimated around £1.5bn of “leakage” is lost from frontline care across the UK and that many big firms are at risk of collapse due to high levels of debt — putting residents at risk.

The Centre of Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) last year forensically examined the accounts of hundreds of companies and concluded “the care home sector is in crisis”.

The think tank found that around £7 of £100 income for small and medium-sized care companies goes towards profits. For the largest operators, it is around £15 per £100.

Their report states: “The current financial structure of many of the largest providers hinders public accountability and hides the true extent of profits being made at the expense of frontline care.

“For anyone purchasing care home services, it is currently impossible to know how much of it goes on frontline care and how much of it leaks out to investors.”

Some companies have so much debt they’re at risk of collapse, potentially causing “unnecessary risk of harm” to residents.

CHPI report author Vivek Kotecha told STV News that Covid-19 “has exposed the weakness in an essential service such as this”.

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He added: “The key overarching point is that the financial structure of the care home industry, the way it’s been set up, means that some parts of the industry are very vulnerable to collapse.

“In an essential public service we don’t necessarily want to be reliant on these fragile and vulnerable businesses that we can’t understand and we don’t know where they’re spending their money or whether we’re getting good value for money or not.”

Scotland’s coronavirus death toll has now passed 4000. National Records of Scotland say that as of June 7 there were 1861 suspected or confirmed Covid-19 deaths in care homes — slightly more than the 1854 in hospitals.

Among the hardest hit is HC-One — the UK’s biggest private provider of residential elderly care. As of June 11, the company recorded 222 deaths of residents in Scotland.

They include nine at Tranent Care Home, East Lothian; 12 at Castle View, Dumbarton; ten at Mugdock House, Bearsden; 14 at Orchard Care Home in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire and ten at Home Farm on the Isle of Skye.

Government regulators took legal action to suspend HC-One’s licence for Home Farm, citing “significant and serious concerns”. Last week it was agreed the company should continue running the home with the case returning to court on June 24.

HC-One’s HQ is in Darlington but its corporate structure comprises a complex web of interlinked companies based in offshore in tax havens including the Cayman Islands. Some of the offshore firms are named after James Bond movie Skyfall

Councillor John Gordon’s 83-year-old dad John Angus Gordon was a Home Farm resident who died of Covid-19. He believes that “if that money was kept within the care sector, surely the resources, the conditions, the care would be a lot better”.

He added: “Going forward we need to look at models of care and what works best but looking at the whole thing just now, have we come to a place where our elderly population, our residents in these places have just become a commodity for the rich to get richer.”

Nick Hood, a social care finance expert at Opus Restructuring, believes that private investment will always be necessary, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with profit. It’s a matter of it being open and above board and visible.”

He also thinks the Scottish Government should follow the lead of countries such as France and Denmark by outlawing offshore ownership of social care.

He told STV News: “It would be an excellent thing and it would show the way to rest of the UK to end this scandal of leakage and secrecy.

“Effectively what’s happened is the top end of this market has been financialised so we’ve got a social service being run for profit and being buried in debt.

“What you’ve ended up with are companies that are financially unsound and worse still, considering that they’re taking around half their revenue from public funds, you cannot tell what is going on because they are owned offshore, and they’ve got complex structures.”

HC-One’s most recent accounts say that Covid-19 “represents a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

Mr Hood said: “Nobody could have predicted the financial damage that the virus would cause, but everything else about their fragility, their finances, is entirely self inflicted.”

HC-One said no one was available for interview and declined to issue a statement.

Dr Donald Macaskill of Scottish Care, which represents private care homes, says there are significant differences between here and the rest of the UK.

He said that around one in five of Scotland’s 725 private homes are owned by the biggest operators — a lower proportion than in the rest of the country.

In Scotland, most care is bought using public money which includes the use of strict contracts stating how much is spent feeding residents and ensures staff receive the living wage.

He said: “Our view is that if the care provider acts legally and meets the quality required, it’s not up to us to say where the company should be registered. A much greater issue in Scotland is the underfunding of care.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said its priority is giving extra support for care homes and that they have strengthened oversight with new legislation “that ensures swiftest intervention if care home residents are being put at serious risk”.

Asked about a possible transparency law, they said: “We’ve been clear we will be considering how care home services are provided, organised, funded and regulated in Scotland.”

Phase three: People from three households can meet indoors

Outdoor meetings of up to five households will also be allowed and two-metre distancing in shops relaxed.

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Lockdown: Nicola Sturgeon set out further easing of restrictions.

Scotland will move to phase three of its plan to ease out of lockdown, with Scots from up to three different households able to meet indoors and stay overnight from Friday.

Outdoor meetings of up to five households, comprising no more than 15 people, will also be permitted, the First Minister revealed.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the shift to MSPs on Thursday following the thrice weekly review of lockdown measures.

She confirmed two-metre social distancing, while remaining in place at large, will be relaxed in key sectors.

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Public transport and retail will see the rule relaxed from Friday, the First Minister said.

However, mitigations will need to be in place in these sectors, with face coverings in shops also mandatory from Friday.

This rule, provided businesses have mitigations in place, will also be relaxed for bars, restaurants and cafes – which can reopen indoors and outdoors from next Wednesday, July 15.

Tourism businesses such as hotels will be able to open as expected in Scotland on July 15, the First Minister confirmed to MSPs.

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Museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas, provided that tickets are bought in advance, can accommodate people again from that date too.

Hairdressers and barbers will be able to open on July 15, with guidance for the sector due to be published this week.

Shops within shopping centres will also be permitted to reopen, meaning the majority of retail premises will be operational in phase three.

From July 22, personal retail like outlets like beauticians and nail salons can resume work.

It comes as no new coronavirus deaths were reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours.

The First Minister told MSPs that while the virus is being suppressed in Scotland, it has not yet gone away.

She said: “Lockdown has suppressed it, but as lockdown eases there is a very real risk that it will start to spread again.

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“And that is not conjecture – it is already happening in many parts of the world.

“And with every restriction we lift, the risk increases – especially as we start to permit more indoor activity.

“So all of us must do everything we can to mitigate it.”

From Friday, up to 15 people from five different households will be allowed to meet outdoors, the First Minister said, as long as two-metre distancing is adhered to.

A maximum of eight people from three different households will also now able to meet indoors.

However, the FM described the change as “one of the highest risk changes we have made so far”.

She continued: “We know that the risk of transmitting the virus indoors is significantly higher than it is outdoors.

“So it is essential that we all take great care and strictly follow all of the public health advice.”

Couples who do not live together will now be able to meet without physically distancing, regardless of their living arrangements.

Indoor hospitality businesses have also been given the go-ahead to open on July 15, but Sturgeon added: “Just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission.

“So it is essential that the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously, by businesses, staff and customers.

“That includes guidance on physical distancing and taking customer contact details.”

The First Minister said the announcement for beauty and nail salons had not been expected so soon, and revealed other measures have been brought forward.

Places of worship will be able to open again for communal prayer and services, earlier than planned, but with restrictions placed on singing and chanting, two-metre distancing and leaving contact details required.

Restrictions on attendance numbers at funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will also be eased, although these numbers will be “even more limited” than those allowed to return to places of worship.

Motorcycle instruction along with theory and hazard tests will be allowed to resume – but not instruction for those learning to drive a car.

No date was given either for the reopening of indoor gyms, bingo halls, live events and non-essential offices.

Sturgeon said there should be “cautious hope” in Scotland over the suppression of the virus but she added it is still a time of “real danger”.

She told the Scottish parliament “Next week represents the most substantial easing of lockdown so far.

“And everything we learn about this, still new virus – about its infectiousness, its ability to kill, and its potential to do long-term damage to health – should warn us that we mess with it at our peril.

“And so perhaps more than ever, now is a time for great caution.”

Boots to cut more than 4000 jobs due to impact of Covid-19

The high street pharmacy company said the restructuring will also see 48 Boots Opticians stores close.

Boots: Company to cut more than 4000 jobs.

High street pharmacy chain Boots has said it expects to cut more than 4000 jobs as part of action to mitigate the “significant impact” of Covid-19.

The move will affect around 7% of the company’s workforce and will particularly affect staff in its Nottingham support office.

It will also affect some deputy and assistant manager, beauty adviser and customer adviser roles across its stores.

The restructuring will also result in the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores.

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It comes after retail sales tumbled by 48% over the past three months in the face of the pandemic, despite Boots keeping swathes of its stores open to customers.

Meanwhile, its opticians business saw sales dive by 72% compared to the same quarter last year as people stayed at home.

Boots said that the cuts represent an “acceleration” of its transformation plans to improve profitably across the business.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK, said: “The proposals announced today are decisive actions to accelerate our transformation plan, allow Boots to continue its vital role as part of the UK health system, and ensure profitable long-term growth.

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“I am so very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication during the last few challenging months.

“They have stepped forward to support their communities, our customers and the NHS during this time, and I am extremely proud to be serving alongside them.”

“In doing this, we are building a stronger and more modern Boots for our customers, patients and colleagues.

“We recognise that today’s proposals will be very difficult for the remarkable people who make up the heart of our business, and we will do everything in our power to provide the fullest support during this time.”


Mourners line street in tribute to toddler killed in crash

Xander Irvine’s funeral cortege passed through Morningside Road in Edinburgh on Thursday morning.

Tribute: Xander Irvine loved books, toy vehicles and Lego.

Mourners lined the streets in tribute to a “happy, bubbly, intelligent little boy” who was killed in a crash in Edinburgh.

Xander Irvine’s funeral cortege passed through Morningside Road on Thursday ahead of the three-year-old’s private service and burial at Morningside Cemetery.

The toddler’s family had asked for as many people as possible from local homes and businesses to line the street to say their goodbyes.

Florist Quate & Co handed out 400 roses to those who had gathered so they could be placed on the hearse as it passed.

Edinburgh: Flowers and teddies have been placed along Morningside Road.
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Flowers and teddies have also been left on the street in tribute to the toddler.

Xander suffered fatal injuries after a car mounted a pavement and careered into a shop in Morningside Road last Tuesday afternoon.

His 37-year-old mother was also injured in the crash but was released from hospital.

The driver of the red Kia, a 91-year-old woman, was uninjured.

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In a statement released through Police Scotland, Xander’s family described him as “real chatterbox who just loved books, playing with all sorts of vehicles and his Lego”.

Parents Victoria and Paul said there were “devastated and feel as if their hearts have been ripped out”. 

Loved: Xander was described as a ‘chatterbox’.

The toddler’s family thanked members of the public and the emergency services for their help at the scene of the accident.

A fundraiser has been set up for Xander’s family, with more than £25,000 raised so far.

If you wish to donate, click here.


Electricity pole fell 200ft from helicopter and landed near road

The aircraft carrying the 700kg wooden pole mistakenly released it onto a hillside 200 metres from a road.

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Crash: Electricity pole mistakenly released from aircraft.

An electricity pole fell from a helicopter transporting it and crashed to the ground near a road in the Highlands, accident investigators have found.

The helicopter was flying at around 200ft in Glencoe with the 700kg wooden pole in a sling underneath the aircraft when it was mistakenly released.

The pole crashed into the hillside below and split into two pieces around 200 metres from a minor public road, according to report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The 66-year-old pilot was flying the Eurocopter solo as part of electricity line refurbishment when the incident happened at around 2.30pm on March 3.

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The report said: “The pole broke into two pieces when it struck a steep hill approximately 200 metres from a minor public road but clear of any built-up areas and third parties.

“There was no damage to the helicopter or lifting equipment.

“The operator considered the most probable cause for the inadvertent release of the load was that the sling, which was carrying the load, was not positioned correctly in the helicopter’s hook which was of the spring-loaded keeper design.

“As a result of this incident, the operator is continuing to phase out the design of this hook for most of its operations and has changed its procedures so that only the operator’s employees are permitted to load the hook when spring-loaded keeper hooks are used.”


Fancy your own private island on Loch Lomond for £500k?

The uninhabited island, Inchconnachan, is only accessible by boat and no-one has lived there for 20 years.

For sale: Inchconnachan is on the market for offers over £500k.

A private island in the middle of Loch Lomond has gone on sale for £500,000.

The uninhabited island, Inchconnachan, is only accessible by boat and no-one has lived there for 20 years.

The ruins of a timber bungalow built in Colonial style in the 1920s can still be seen.

It was once the holiday home of thrill-seeking aristocrat Fiona Gore, Countess of Arran who was at one-time the fastest woman on the water, after setting record speeds of 102mph in a powerboat in 1980.

No-one has lived on Inchconnachan there for 20 years. SWNS
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Planning consent and detailed architectural drawings have been obtained to replace the existing bungalow with a new four-bedroom lodge and one-bedroom warden’s house, along with a boathouse and pier.

The island is both an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation as well as being part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and is surrounded by views of mountain ranges.

Wildlife lovers could watch nesting ospreys, otters and deer on the 103-acre island, which can only be accessed by a boat from Luss, Argyll and Bute.

It is on the market for offers over £500,000 – the same price as an ultra-modern one-bedroom flat near Canary Wharf in London.

The island is only accessible by boat. SWNS
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Cameron Ewer for Savills said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a beautiful and completely private, yet accessible, retreat and create a wonderful new residence there.

“For those seeking peace and seclusion, yet wanting all that this part of Scotland has to offer in the way of nature and water-based sport and activities, this is surely the ultimate prize.”

Tom Stewart-Moore for Knight Frank said: “To be able to build your own house on your own private island but yet in a very accessible and beautiful part of the country will be a dream for many and is likely to have global appeal.”


Access to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park restricted for summer

Glasgow City Council is locking ten gates at the popular park in a bid to control large gatherings.

Crowds: Kelvingrove Park has hosted mass gatherings on sunny days.

Access to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park is to be restricted for the rest of the summer.

In an effort to control large gatherings during lockdown, the city’s council has moved to close ten gates which are entrance and exit points to the popular park.

Six key access points from the north, south, east and west of the park are to remain.

These are at Kelvingrove Street, Kelvin Way (south), Eldon Street underpass for the NCN 756, Eldon Street, Park Gate and the Royal Terrace for NCN 756.

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The decision comes following a spate of incidents in the West End park which has hosted huge crowds on sunny weekends during lockdown.

Last month, dozens of police officers were forced to disperse crowds from the area.

On days when large gatherings are anticipated, council officers are to be stationed at entrance points to remind visitors of park management rules, including prohibition of alcohol and keeping the park clean.

Following recent trouble, anyone entering the park with alcohol is to be refused entry, the council say.

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Mobile CCTV is also to be improved at Kelvingrove, while discussions are ongoing about adding to the park’s four permanent CCTV cameras.

Councillor Anna Richardson, city convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: “Going to the park has been a real lifeline during the Covid-19 emergency and throughout lockdown Kelvingrove Park has remained as one of Glasgow’s favourite green spaces.

“Closing gates at Kelvingrove is the last thing we wanted to do, but we have to ensure the park remains a place that everyone can enjoy and feels safe going there.


Police officer to appeal after winning sex discrimination claim

Karen Harper claims evidence was ignored and decisions were not explained during the employment tribunal.

Appeal: Karen Harper.

A former police officer who partly won a sex discrimination claim against Police Scotland is appealing — on the grounds her employment tribunal ignored evidence and failed to explain decisions.

The tribunal found Karen Harper was victimised by a sergeant who passed potentially damaging information about her “in retaliation” after she accused him of bullying.

However, it rejected the whistleblower’s allegation that her bullying complaint was also the reason she was targeted in an extensive criminal investigation.

In his original judgment in February, tribunal judge Mark Whitcombe said it was “purely coincidental” the investigation was launched two weeks after she lodged her complaint in 2015.

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Ms Harper, from Dumfries, had 22 years’ service before retiring through ill health in 2017.

In the appeal submission, Ms Harper’s lawyer Mark Allison claims there was a “failure by the tribunal to have regard to material evidence” and that it “failed to record their decision and give adequate reasons”.

Ms Harper was off duty when she allegedly intervened in an argument between her ten-year-old son and another boy, who claimed she shouted at him.

She was not told about the investigation or asked for her side of the story and later discovered two inspectors approached nine of her neighbours and her ex-husband Bruce, a former sergeant.

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Ms Harper’s appeal argues that element of the investigation were “incomprehensible” and “went beyond legitimate enquiry, and amount to a fishing expedition”.

It alleges the Glasgow tribunal “either misunderstood the evidence before it” or “failed to scrutinise and given reasoned analysis” in relation to the explanations given by police witnesses. 

Had it done so, the tribunal should have concluded “in the absence of a legitimate purpose” the reason for the visit was because of the bullying complaint.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said they were unable to comment due to the legal process being live while Ms Harper also declined to comment.

Her lawyer Mr Allison, of Livingstone Brown, said: “Ms Harper was pleased with the unequivocal findings by the tribunal both that she had been subjected to unlawful victimisation by a senior police officer and that the subsequent procedure was unfair and inconsistent with Police Scotland’s own policies and procedures.

“Nevertheless there are aspects of the judgment that Ms Harper takes issue with. 

“On the basis of legal advice, it is felt that there are reasonable grounds for challenging those decisions and that process is under way.”


Tax hike warning to help pay for £160bn Covid spending package

The IFS has warned of higher taxes in 2022/23 in a bid to pay off cash spent protecting jobs during the coronavirus crisis.

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Covid cash hit: Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

A think tank has warned of higher taxes in 2022/23 to help pay for the £160bn chancellor Rishi Sunak has committed to protecting jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.

In a wide ranging response to the economic update on Wednesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) director Paul Johnson said: “Let’s hold in the back of our minds that a reckoning, in the form of higher taxes, will come eventually.”

The think tank poses questions about whether some of the measures announced by the chancellor will deliver value for money.

The Job Retention Bonus will give employers £1000 for every furloughed worker kept on until at least January 2021.

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However, the IFS said: “A lot, probably a majority, of the job retention bonus money will go in respect of jobs that would have been, indeed already have been, returned from furlough anyway”.

It also questioned the timing of the VAT cut particularly as it relates to the hospitality sector.

Mr Johnson said: “Maybe it would have been better to wait until we know whether the real problem is on the demand side –people need to be encouraged to go out and eat-or on the supply side-with social distancing restaurants can’t serve enough people.”

The IFS also fired a warning over other measures announced like apprenticeships and energy efficiency programmes saying “you need to be sure you can deliver them. Even at the scale announced this will be challenging”.

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The IFS said the chancellor has a difficult balancing act between supporting business now and laying firm foundations for economic recovery.

Mr Johnson concluded: “They need to get the balance between preserving those parts of the economy which have a long-term future and helping to transition to the new normal. 

“They also need to actually deliver goods and services and change. That is very different from simply disbursing cash.”

‘Expect pay packets to take a hit in future’

By STV’s Special Correspondent Bernard Ponsonby

When the IFS speaks, politicians sit up and take note. Like the Office for Budget Responsibility its judgements tend to be unimpeachable.

Some of the think tank’s observations make for uncomfortable reading for Rishi Sunak but they readily concede he has a difficult if not impossible task in dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances.

The problem for Sunak is that he is trying to do a number of different things at once with no guarantee that his spending will actually work.

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The interventions are meant to shore up jobs now. Furlough has done that at huge expense. The concern is that the eye watering sums will have given households and businesses breathing space but just postpone the inevitable.

As the IFS point out you can spend £60bn on furloughing or add £8bn to the welfare bill in the form of higher payments to the newly unemployed. The Government have opted for spending more than would have been the case if they had simply let events take their natural course.

The chancellor is also trying to prop up key sectors of the economy like hospitality and tourism whilst laying the foundations for long term sustainable jobs through measures on apprenticeships and targeted help for 16-24 year olds. At this stage it is impossible to gauge how successful these measures will be.

Perhaps the most strikingly candid admission from the chancellor is that he cannot replace all of the jobs that will be lost in the coming months. In that sense the policy is about mitigating disaster not preventing it. Mass unemployment increasingly looks inevitable; the only issue is the weight of the mass.

And the price for trying to mitigate all of this is the biggest deficit since the Second World War.  That’s why tax increases are inevitable but as the IFS says not this year and not next whilst the economy is in a fragile state.

Expect pay packets to take a hit therefore in 2022/23.


Hotel attack victim ‘feared he would die’ after stabbing

Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after six people were injured in the attack in Glasgow.

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Glasgow: Badreddin Abadlla Adam injured six people in the attack.

A man who was stabbed in a knife attack outside a city hotel has said he feared he was dying as he lay bleeding on the pavement.

Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, from Sudan, was shot dead by police after his attack at the Park Inn Hotel in Glasgow, which left six people injured including 42-year-old police constable David Whyte.

Mex Abin, 20, said he was the first person to be attacked after encountering Adam as he walked along West George Street to meet a friend on June 26.

He said Adam called him over and then slapped him on the face before stabbing him in his right side, then his left.

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He told the Daily Record: “I think the knife was small. I didn’t even see it. I felt something had happened to my body but I didn’t know he had stabbed me. 

“I was shocked. I panicked. I just wanted to run but he wouldn’t let go of my t-shirt. I was screaming and struggling.

“His face was cold and calm. God must have saved me because I don’t know how but I pulled back – my t-shirt ripped and I broke free.”

Attacker: Badreddin Abadlla Adam, 28, from Sudan, was shot dead by police.

He said he ran towards his friend, who helped him to sit down, while a kitchen worker from the hotel rushed over and applied pressure to the wounds.

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Mr Abin, who is from the Ivory Coast, said: “I was on a pavement, sure I was dying. I thought of my mum. I thought if I closed my eyes I would never wake up again. I was afraid to die.”

The other people injured were men aged 17, 18, 38 and 53, with all victims taken to hospital for treatment.

Two of the injured are members of staff at the hotel while three are asylum seekers.

Mr Abin told the newspaper that Adam was “quiet and kept to himself” and said he did not really know him.

He praised the medical staff who treated him in hospital, saying: “I thank them a thousand times for saving my life.”

He also said he forgives Adam for stabbing him and that the attacker “lost his mind and that is not his fault”.


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