Care homes and revenge evictions

A picture of Meadbank care home, a red-brick building on a corner with the name 'Meadbank' in large white letters on the rounded corner, with a brick wall topped by a black metal railing in front of it.In this morning’s Guardian, there’s an investigation into abuse in British care homes and the homes involved care for the three main groups of care home residents — the elderly, those with learning disabilities and those with physical impairments — and the abuses are all those we are familiar with, such as call buttons not being answered, residents being left in soiled clothing and bedding, people not being kept safe — as well as rodent infestations, all while their owners earned a tidy profit and paid handsome dividends and executive salaries. However, there is one issue which the two articles do not mention and one which does not often get discussed when it comes to care homes: the ease with which the management can evict a resident for minor infractions of rules, irrespective of whether there is anywhere else nearby which is suitable for them. It is not only landlords but also care home owners that indulge in “revenge evictions”.

A couple of posts back I mentioned a lady, in her early 20s and living in the north of England, who earlier this year became an amputee and a paraplegic. I won’t go into the specifics of how that happened; the amputation was planned but her paralysis was the result of a mistake made following it. Initially she went back home and lived with her mother, but the house was unsuitable and the care burden enormous for her mother, so the decision was made that she had to go into residential care and she was placed in hospital. Social services searched for a care home for her and found one; she moved in in July. The home’s residents are mostly those with learning disabilities, including autism. She has the sort of autism that used to be called Asperger’s syndrome, but that is not why she was in the home. She was there because she needed a suitably adapted home for her physical needs, and this was the nearest that could be found. While not ideal — she could not leave without asking a member of staff to let her out because other residents needed to be kept in, and she found that the TV was mostly used to watch children’s programmes — it was not terrible, she had friends outside and they took her out often.

However, she admitted a member of the management to the private Facebook group she used to share her ‘journey’ with her online friends and one day complained on that group that her morning care call was not made until noon. As a result, the management held a meeting and gave her (and social services) six weeks’ notice that she had to leave the home. Eventually it was decided that she would live in a bungalow which had previously been occupied by a disabled woman who had died, so it was partially adapted and needed some improvements; in the meanwhile, she is living in a supported living environment which usually deals with elderly people, and where the care arrangements are very limited and ill-suited to her needs.

Revenge eviction is normally used to refer to a landlord evicting a tenant because they complain that the property is inadequate and needs repair or improvement; a bill to ban such evictions was voted down in the Commons in 2014, much to the delight of private landlords, and a law was finally introduced in 2015 although it only covered tenancies signed since October 2015. However, a care home, including one owned by a large chain, can still evict someone for complaining about the care they receive on social media, including a private Facebook group, and take no responsibility for where they might live afterwards. Care home living for young people who have physical impairments has become unpopular for good reason, but a result is that for people with very substantial needs, places are thin on the ground and someone might have to move a long way from friends and family. If someone is evicted, they might have to travel even further. If someone mounts a sustained campaign of repeated and often exaggerated public complaints because a member of staff rubbed them up the wrong way or some other petty reason, evicting them might be justified but evicting for the reasons given here is not.

This lady did not want to live in a care home all her life; she wanted an adapted property where she could live, I believe, with her mother and have care provided rather than her mother having to do it all. However, some people need the care a care home can provide and may not want to live on their own; they have a right to security in where they live and that means not being evicted for trivial reasons. The law must be changed to stop this practice.

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