Crisis-hit care firms pay millions to owners

The five biggest companies providing home care services to the elderly have paid millions of pounds to their owners despite the crisis in standards.

An analysis of published reports from the Care Quality Commission, the regulator for England, found that of the 192 domiciliary care services run by big companies and inspected over the past two years, 80 were found to “require improvement”, with eight found to be “inadequate” and placed into special measures.

The investigation was carried out by The Observer using an analysis of company accounts by Corporate Watch, a non-profit research group. It found that £36 million was paid by the five companies to their owners, with a further £34 million in liabilities in company accounts.

Last week the Competition and Markets Authority said that it was launching an investigation into the residential care sector after concerns were raised about unfair practices and high bills. The home care market is much larger and experts say it is tougher to regulate as it often involves single carers going into the homes of highly vulnerable people.

In services rated inadequate by the CQC, elderly people were found to be left unwashed, unfed and unable to get out of bed. In some cases, medicine was not given on time or safely and services were described as unsafe and short-staffed.

Corporate Watch’s investigation revealed that City & County Healthcare paid out £4.5 million in interest on loans during the period of Sovereign’s ownership — 2009 to 2013. CQC inspections into 48 City & County branches over the past two years found that 24 were rated as “requiring improvement”.

A spokesman for Sovereign said: “The investment and support from Sovereign helped City & County to continue to care for people in their homes and grow as a responsible and successful care provider.”