Advice on closure of Southern Cross

You may have heard about the plight of Southern Cross in the media recently (June - July 2011). Southern Cross is the country’s biggest independent care home operator with 31,000 residents and 750 homes.

If you're affected by the closure of Southern Cross, you may find our free advice below useful:

The current situation will be a cause for concern for Southern Cross residents, their relatives and those who are considering a move into a Southern Cross facility. However, it now seems likely that most Southern Cross homes will either continue to be managed by Southern Cross or will be taken over by other managing agencies, in which case residents are unlikely to notice any difference. A small number of homes might have to close.

Southern Cross and its landlords have given assurances that any closures will be handled sensitively and in a planned manner between October 2011 and 2016.

Age UK information and advice

Age UK provides a range of free information guides and factsheets on adult social care. You can also call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 to discuss your concerns.

Download our information from the Age UK website at www.ageuk.org.uk/publications or request a printed copy by calling Age UK Advice.

Care home closures

If you’re worried about a proposed care home closure, you might wish to take action. How much influence you have may depend on whether the care home is owned by a local authority, or independently owned.

Independent sector homes

The following rights and protections can help residents in independent homes to ensure that the proper procedures are followed if their home is under threat:

  • All care home providers must meet the standards required by the Care Quality Commission
  • The owners must observe any notice to leave requirements contained in the contract that they have made with the resident or local authority
  • Residents who have been placed by the local authority are protected under the Human Rights Act
  • Residents who arrange and fund their own residential care can make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman about their care home provider

Local authority homes

Local authority homes usually take longer to close than independent ones. They are more likely to be swayed by publicity campaigns or political pressure.

The local authority must consult with the residents and their relatives early on in the closure proposal process. The local authority must give reasons for the proposal, which can be considered in the consultation. The consultation should include meetings with a group of residents and their representatives and can include one-to-one sessions.

The local authority has a duty to protect (‘safeguard’) vulnerable adults in its care. It must also show that it has not unjustifiably discriminated against residents and has a duty to promote equality, for example relating to age, race or gender.

One care home closure proposal was blocked in court when the residents were found to have been given the ‘legitimate expectation’ of a home for life by a local authority. Other closure proposals have been challenged under the Human Rights Act. A proposed closure can be challenged through the local authority complaints process, the Local Government Ombudsman and via judicial revue.

The NHS has a responsibility to relocate any residents who were placed and funded by them.

Help finding new accommodation

If a care home is likely to close, residents can ask their local authority for a needs assessment. This should include their physical, social and psychological needs and risks, and result in a recommendation about the type of alternative accommodation the resident requires. The local authority must provide a reasonable choice of alternative accommodation.

If a resident doesn’t have the mental capacity to communicate their needs, perhaps because of a stroke or dementia, then anyone working with them must act in their ‘best interests’ as defined by legislation.

See our free guide opens link in new window opens link in new window Care homes and our free factsheets opens link in new window opens link in new window Finding care home accommodation and opens link in new window opens link in new window Paying for permanent residential care for more information.

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Age UK Advice:
0800 169 2081
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