UK care homes firm with sites in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex 'on brink of administration'
PUBLISHED: 11:48 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:48 30 April 2019
One of the UK's biggest private care home firms is reported to be on the brink of administration after notching up around a half a billion pounds' worth of debt.
Two of Four Seasons Health Care's (FSHC) holding companies are said to be set to seek court approval to appoint administrators later on Tuesday, April 30, placing the long-term ownership of the business in doubt.
But the day-to-day operations at the 322 care homes run by the group will continue as normal while a buyer is sought, it is understood, with families, residents and employees unaffected.
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The company is a big player in the UK's social care sector, employing around 20,000 staff to serve around 17,000 residents and patients.
Professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) has been lined up to handle the administration, which would be the biggest in the sector since Southern Cross collapsed in 2011.
The biggest creditor to the holding companies is said to be US hedge fund H2 Capital.
Homes belonging to Four Seasons include North Court Care Home in Bury St Edmunds, Kingfisher House Care home in Newmarket, Catchpole Court Care Home in Sudbury, The Maltings Care Home at Fakenham, Eastlands Care Home at Taverham, St Mary's Care Home, Crostwick, near Norwich, and Melton House Care Home at Wymondham, near Norwich.
The aim will be to run a sale process to put the group on a stable financial footing.
“The key thing to stress is it doesn't prompt any change for the homes or the way they are run,” an insider said, as the holding companies, rather the operating ones, were involved.
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There is understood to be sufficient funding to allow for the running of the homes while a buyer is sought.
Unions are seeking reassurance over the future of the homes.
GMB, the union for care workers, said the government must urgently step in to reassure Four Seasons staff and residents.
GMB helped launch a All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) earlier this year to deal with a social care system 'crumbling beneath us'.
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “The possible collapse of Four Seasons shows our care system is in crisis, it is crumbling beneath us because the funding isn't there.
“Lack of funding in the care sector is putting the profession - and all of our futures – in serious danger.
“Throughout our lives, we will all come into contact with care - be it our mums and dads needing help, working as a carer or knowing someone who does. Ultimately we will all need it ourselves.
“But instead of taking action, this government keeps kicking the Green Paper on social care into the long grass.