Council terminates contract with Lancaster care company after it fails to pay staff wages

A Lancaster care provider which has not paid its staff wages this month has had its contract terminated by Lancashire County Council.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 4:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 5:11 pm
Heritage Homecare in Lancaster

Staff at Heritage Homecare Ltd, which has offices in Riverway House, Morecambe Road, received a letter of apology from the company’s directors on Tuesday March 1, blaming the county council for the non-payment of wages.

But Lancashire County Council said it was up to the business to manage cashflow effectively, and announced today, March 2, that it would not be contracting any new care with the company.

The council is also currently in the process of transferring care delivered by Heritage Homecare Ltd to other registered home care providers.

One former member of staff, who did not wish to be named, said: “I left at the end of last month after the company received a poor CQC report.

“They carried on as usual but they’ve now put everyone a month in arrears.

“I was expecting my last wage, and was told that it would be paid.

“Then I noticed their website had gone down, and an email has gone out to let people know they won’t be paid this month.

“I’m worried that staff not getting paid will have a negative effect on the people who require care.”

Another former member of staff said: “In January they only paid me half, and this month they gave me nothing.

“It’s stopping me getting my P45. A lot of us left for how the company is being run.”

The letter to staff, signed by the company’s directors Angela Hughes and Kay Randle, read: “We would like to apologise for the delay in paying your wage.

“We do however want to point out that Heritage Homecare is seeking to make the payment at the earliest opportunity.

“Since June 2014 Lancashire County Council changed their invoicing system which although the Finance Team have worked tirelessly with LCC to overcome and rectify any issues in a timely manner.

“LCC have chosen to focus their attention on Heritage Homecare over the last few months thus causing immense difficulties with cash flow.

“The last payment period we invoiced LCC for we received less than 10% of the total invoice amount which is not enough to pay employees wages.

“We will be invoicing LCC again week commencing 7 March 2016 when we expect to receive money which will enable us to pay your outstanding wage; LCC’s terms of payment are up to 30 days after receipt of invoice.

“The Finance Team are continuing to work with LCC and we will look to pay the amounts owed as soon as possible.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing you.”

County Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “Following a number of safeguarding concerns, arising from recent service inspections by the Care Quality Commission which rated some of Heritage’s services as ‘Inadequate’ overall, we have been working with partners to fully understand and address the extent and severity of the concerns.

“The issues facing staff who are not being paid by Heritage are a matter the owners and management need to address directly with their own employees.

“Whilst I am sympathetic to the situation facing the workforce, it is for the business itself to manage cashflow effectively to meet its obligations to staff and creditors.

“The council has paid, and continues to pay, the company what is owed according to contractual terms and conditions.

“After careful consideration we have now decided that LCC will no longer contract new care with Heritage Homecare. We are also currently in the process of transferring care they deliver to other registered Home Care providers. Everyone affected has been allocated a social worker who is helping them with this process. This is undoubtedly a difficult and challenging time for everyone who has been relying on homecare from this agency, but we are doing everything we can to keep individuals and families informed. “

Lancashire County Council launched an investigation into the company in October 2015 over patient care concerns raised by former employees.

The official probe came after claims that service users of Heritage Homecare Services, which provides social care for older adults, did not receive proper levels of care.

Heritage Homecare refuted the claims, saying they were “unfounded”.

The company was also told by the Care Quality Commission that it must make improvements following unannounced inspections in September and October 2015.

No-one at Heritage Homecare was available for comment, and the company’s website was down this week.