Abul Taher – DailyMail June 19, 2011
The Royal Bank of Scotland has been criticised over plans to close all three of its charitable care homes – just months after its chief executive pocketed a £7.7 million pay package.
The bank, which was bailed out with more than £40 billion of taxpayers’ money during the financial crisis, says the homes ran up total losses of £1.3 million in the last financial year.
RBS also claims the homes are under-occupied and that the properties are no longer suitable.
But staff have warned that the trauma of moving could kill some of the 40 frail residents, the eldest of whom is 105.
And campaigners battling to save the homes say the proposals are disgraceful, especially coming so soon after RBS chief executive Stephen Hester was awarded a £2 million bonus and shares worth up to £4.5 million on top of his annual £1.2 million salary.
In April, RBS also announced that 323 of its key staff shared total pay of £375 million last year.
Campaigners dispute RBS’s claim that the properties are unsuitable. They point out that the Care Quality Commission, which inspects care homes in England, gave all three an ‘excellent’ rating last year.
The homes – in Harrogate, North Yorkshire; Canterbury, Kent; and Torquay, Devon – are run by a charity called the RBS Care Homes Foundation. The residents are mostly former employees of RBS and NatWest, which has been part of the RBS Group since 2000.
Despite its plan to close down the care homes on financial grounds, in its annual report published in April, RBS said it paid 100 of its top executives more than £1 million each in salary last year, as well as generous bonuses. The high ‘fat-cat’ salaries caused national outrage as RBS is now 81 per cent owned by the British public after £45 billion of taxpayers’ money was pumped into it during the financial crisis.
It is believed the company first mooted the plan to close down the homes in 2008. Last month, Lesley Davie, chairman of the trustees, wrote to all residents and staff to tell them about the proposed closures.
But a campaign group formed by the families of RBS pensioners says there is no reason why the homes cannot remain open. The group said that despite the loss last year, in 2009 the Trust actually had a surplus of more than £700,000.
They also said the buildings were perfectly suitable for care of the elderly, as highlighted by the ‘excellent’ ratings. And they added that the homes had vacancies only because RBS does not publicise them to its 300,000-strong pool of current and former employees.
Although they charge the market rate of between £500 and £700 per week, some of the residents have most of their bills paid by their local authorities, with the difference met by the foundation. Most will not be able to afford care in the private sector if they are forced to leave.
The foundation says that residents will be given three months to find alternative care home places, and that it will pay £1,000 to each resident to help with their moves.
Last week, concerned staff warned that the proposed closure could lead to vulnerable residents dying from the ‘stress and trauma’ of moving.
One staff member, who does not want to be named, said: ‘The whole situation is a mess. The residents are petrified and we are in the dark as well. Two residents have told me that they hope they die before the move happens.’
A total of 129 care and nursing staff face redundancy.
The controversy comes against the backdrop of the crisis at Southern Cross, one of the biggest care home companies in Britain, whose 751 homes are at risk of possible closure, affecting more than 31,000 residents.
One resident facing eviction from Wallis Court, Torquay, is frail grandmother Barbara Rook, 82, who had to give up living independently after a series of mini-strokes.
Her daughter, Linda Shefford, 57, has joined the family members of other residents in a battle to keep all three RBS care homes open.
Teaching assistant Linda, a mother of two from Weybridge, Surrey, said: ‘This news has come as a great shock. For the foundation to act so callously and throw these elderly people out on to the street is a disgrace. They are acting without a social or moral conscience and should be ashamed.’
She added: ‘Mum will be heartbroken to leave and it is up to me to help.’
Grandfather Donald Mimmack, 96, is also facing eviction from Wallis Court. His son Stuart, 67, said: ‘My father is worried sick at the prospect of finding a new home – he bursts into tears every time he thinks about it.’
RBS Care Homes Foundation said in a statement: ‘We understand that the prospect of closure is upsetting for the residents and worrying for staff, and the foundation will continue to do everything possible to support both residents and staff.’