CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Scandal of 100-year-olds given 3 months to quit their homes

11 March, 2021

Mary Fielding Guild care home 

WHAT would the late great Diana Athill have had to say about the imminent closure of her beloved Mary Feilding Guild? (100-year-olds told to find somewhere else to live after historic care home is sold off, March 11).

The celebrated novelist and editor, in an interview 10 years ago, spoke about how the trust-run home was rated in the top six of the country.

She spoke about her “dream” experience living in the Highgate home, explaining the deep contrast with the scandal-torn privately-run alternatives of the time.

Southern Cross, then the country’s biggest care home operator, had gone bust after an ill-fated financial expansion led to crippling debts.

It was a cautionary tale about care home privatisation that has been repeated time and again over the years, but never seems to be heeded.

Ms Athill, who lived in Primrose Hill, hit the nail on the head when she said: “The ghastly thing is, a great percentage of homes are run by private companies.

“You don’t set up an old people’s home as a private company unless you think you’re going to make a profit. You can’t make money out of old people.”

Highgate Care Ltd appears to have come to the conclusion that it cannot make money out of the old people at Mary Feilding Guild.

Its solution? Evict all the residents, knock the building down, and start again. This callous behaviour would surely make even the most hardened capitalist wince.

It will be both devastating and scary for the home’s residents, some are over 100 years old, who have been given three months to find a new home in a pandemic they have been shielding from.

Even the trustees appear stunned to have discovered the company’s true intentions after the sale was agreed. Naive or not, a deep sense of remorse will be setting in.

The story exemplifies the nature of private ownership of social services in this country. History shows it doesn’t work. Care homes should be run appropriately by the state, not in a desperate, penny-pinching, threadbare fashion.

This will become more apparent with the ageing population. As average life expectancies increase, the pressure will increase. The problem will not go away until the profit motive and competition for “clients” is done away with.

The Mary Feilding Guild home was, certainly in the past five years, charging higher fees than other care homes. But there is no reason why, with proper central government funding, all homes couldn’t meet its high standards at a reasonable rate.

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