Troubled Sunderland care home goes into liquidation

St Martha's care home in Thornhill Park, Sunderland.
St Martha's care home in Thornhill Park, Sunderland.
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A Sunderland care company has gone into liquidation, leaving staff having to fight to get wages they are owed.

Employees of the Care Fayre/St Martha’s were given the news in a letter informing them the company had gone into liquidation as of Saturday and that it would be unable to make wage payments due the previous day.

That blow comes after St Martha’s Care Home in Thornhill Park, Sunderland, closed at the end of March.

The home said it was no longer viable because it was only looking after 13 residents, leaving 11 of its rooms empty.

Care home bosses said it had struggled to find people wanting to move in because many now prefer to be cared for in their own homes.

An arm of the business offering care at home was thriving, they claimed, but they have now admitted that their home care service has gone into liquidation because it could not generate enough business to cover its costs.

Staff initially received a hand-delivered letter on Thursday night telling them they had been made redundant by the Doxford Park-based firm but would be expected to continue to work until Saturday, though the business was unable to pay their wages.

However, though workers have been left out of pocket and now face having to apply for their money through a redundancy package, they have been offered new jobs by Gateshead-based Comfort Call.

It has offered to take on Care Fayre/St Martha’s 27 workers and 60 clients across Wearside.

Donna McCann, one of St Martha’s bosses, said: “Like any business, it’s gone into liquidation because financially it’s not viable.

“We couldn’t develop the business because we couldn’t get the hours.

“We hoped our hours would increase, but people became insecure over what happened in the press, which made people uneasy.

“Comfort Call is a very respectable and huge company which does a very good job, and they are taking on our clients who want to go with them.”

The letter to workers states: “It is with great sorrow and disappointment that the Care Fayre/St Martha’s will be in liquidation from August 1.

“Due to this, the company must notify you that you are being made redundant in accordance with your contract, with effect from August 1.

“We would like to assure you that you have not been dismissed, and it is still your responsibility to carry out your work duties until the date of liquidation.

“Regarding staff wage payments due on July 31. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, the Care Fayre/St Martha’s At Home is unable to make wage payments.

“We would like to thank you for your hard work, years of service and dedication.”

One worker, now preparing to take up a role with Comfort Call,said she is owed almost two months’ worth of wages, amounting to more than £1,000.

The firm has made payments of £500 to full-time workers and a lesser amount to part-time staff as a gesture of goodwill to help them make ends meet, she said.

The worker, who asked not to be named, added: “This leaves me with a job.

“The office staff said they didn’t know about the development when they sent the letter, but they called to ask if I would pop into the office and talk about moving to Comfort Care.

“I had no idea this was going to happen. I was just devastated when I got the letter.”

Sunderland City Council said arrangements are already in place with an existing registered care provider to ensure clients are not left in the lurch, with others also offering support.

A spokesman said: “The council will continue to work with the individuals and their families, staff and providers to ensure continuity of care over the brief transition process.”