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Staff go unpaid after Sunderland care home’s closure

MONEY ROW: Former staff members Fiona Donohoe (front left) and Paula McCowliff (front right) join fellow workers outside St Martha's care home in Thornhill Park.
MONEY ROW: Former staff members Fiona Donohoe (front left) and Paula McCowliff (front right) join fellow workers outside St Martha's care home in Thornhill Park.
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STAFF devastated by the closure of a Sunderland care home now face further hardship after claiming they have gone unpaid since February.

Around 27 former staff from St Martha’s, in Thornhill Park, Ashbrooke, say they are struggling to pay their rent, bills and provide for their children because their wages have not been paid since February 6.

It’s left me in debt and my partner’s had to help me out. We’ve taken money we saved for our honeymoon and I don’t know if we’ll be able to pay that back.

Susan Wheatley

The home closed on March 31, after its bosses said the business was no longer financially viable.

Only 13 of its 24 rooms were occupied and the management said they struggled to find more residents, with the rise in people being cared for in their own homes also cited as a cause in the decline.

Workers who lost their jobs with the decision to close say the upset of losing their roles has been exacerbated by how they were treated.

They say they were promised by the owners it would remain open when they sought reassurances and that they would be paid their cash.

They also say finding new jobs, being paid by their new employers or seeking benefits has been complicated without paperwork such as their P45 forms.

All ex-workers have submitted grievance letters against the home.

Elise Grieveson, 38, from Pennywell, 38, worked there as a night care assistant for seven months.

She said: “It’s disgusting. I’ve got two children to look after, there’s no support and it’s hard and it’s not good enough.

“Some people worked there for 20 years.

“I feel for myself, but there were some fantastic carers and they deserved some loyalty.”

Susan Wheatley, 42, from High Barnes, worked at the home for more than eight years as a senior carer.

“I’m devastated,” she said.

“It’s left me in debt and my partner’s had to help me out. We’ve taken money we saved for our honeymoon and I don’t know if we’ll be able to pay that back.

She added: “I’ve tried ringing them, but there’s just no concern.”

Dorothy Proctor, 43, from Barnes, worked at the home for five weeks.

She said: “I feel angry. I left a good job to come here. I even confronted them and asked what was going on.”

Gwen Swalwell, the home’s director, disputed claims that the majority of workers had been without wages since February.

She added: “We are negotiating with the bank and we are keeping to employment law.

“We’re working really hard to resolve the situation and we want them to get the money that’s due to them.

“They have been very good, loyal and understanding. It’s been heartbreaking.”

The management have said a Care and Quality Commission report which highlighted concerns about medicine management and training was not related to the closure.