MP calls for review of Mary Feilding Guild care home sale

Catherine West MP at a previous garden party of Mary Feilding Guild

Catherine West MP at a previous garden party of Mary Feilding Guild - Credit: Catherine West MP

Catherine West MP has urged the Charity Commission to review the sale of the Mary Feilding Guild care home in Highgate. 

The Hornsey and Wood Green MP has criticised the “humanity” of the new owner, Highgate Care, after it ordered residents in their 80s, 90s and 100s to leave the residential home in North Hill, by May 31. 

The MP also challenged the alleged lack of consultation from the former owner – charitable trust Mary Feilding Guild (MFG) – which has left elderly residents rushing to move homes, during the coronavirus pandemic. 

MFG said it consulted with the Charity Commission over the decision and that as a small charity it needed to sell as it “simply did not have the resources” to keep the home running.  

Highgate Care, which has plans to demolish and redevelop the site, said the closure was lawful and that the home is not currently suitable for modern nursing facilities. 

Ms West said she believes the “thoughtless” move was in breach of the Equalities Act and the current eviction ban that is set to end on March 31.  

“What I don't understand is that elderly residents are being asked to leave at all,” she said.

Joy Winterbottom, 88, says residents are being put at risk

MFG resident Joy Winterbottom, 88 - Credit: Polly Hancock

“It’s their home and I think they should be protected, and at the moment I don’t think they’re being protected in the context of coronavirus and the protections on private sector tenants.  

“But I also believe that given their age and that this is people’s homes, they should be given the right to remain in their homes and that the new owner can make plans around them, rather than the other way around.” 

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The MP described the situation as an “absolute travesty” as she called on Highgate Care to allow residents to keep living in the home while it is redeveloped.  

“I am extremely concerned about the welfare and the emotional strength of my constituents who have been treated very badly,” she said.  

“Firstly by the trust, which appears not to have consulted adequately on this sale and the process around this sale. 

“And secondly I’m very worried that the new owners are not acting lawfully, and they're certainly not acting with any humanity.” 

The MP’s petition to halt the plans, which she intends to present in parliament, has received more than 850 signatures.  

Ms West said the “shameful” treatment of residents reflects a wider crisis in social care.  

The UK’s largest care homes company recently sold 52 sites as part of a shift from more general residential care towards specialised, high-dependency care. 

Residents and staff at the Mary Feilding Guild - including six over-100s. Picture: Sarah Lee

Residents and staff at the Mary Feilding Guild - including six over-100s. Picture: Sarah Lee - Credit: Archant

“We are in a complete crisis in the care of older folk and this is a good demonstration of how there is lack of scrutiny from the government on private providers,” the MP said.   

“The fact that this private provider thought this was an appropriate way to treat 90 and 100 year-olds just shows us what their thinking is."

She said the social care crisis has been laid bare by the pandemic, and that despite rises in council tax, local authorities do not have the funding to meet the needs of the community. 

Mary Feilding Guild, in View Road

Mary Feilding Guild, in View Road - Credit: Polly Hancock

Ms West has asked Haringey Council and the government to review the case see how residents – and staff who face losing their jobs – can be protected.  

A Haringey spokesperson said the authority is supporting care home staff to help them find other jobs in the sector. 

A government spokesperson said it would not comment on individual cases but that “providers buying and selling care homes is a normal part of a functioning market”.  

A Mary Feilding Guild spokesperson said it was given no forewarning of the owner’s closure plans, and that it would give proceeds of the sale to other charities, and to affected residents and staff.  

In 2020 the charitable trust had an income of £1.26 million, and an expenditure of £1.56m.

But the spokesperson said: “Mary Feilding is a small charity and has been struggling for some time. We simply do not have the resources or the expertise to run a home in this day and age with all that entails in terms of investment, regulation and staffing requirement.” 

A Highgate Care spokesperson said all 16 existing residents have identified alternative accommodation, and that eight of them are set to move in the next four weeks.  

A Charity Commission spokesperson said the regulator recognises the “considerable stress” for residents, and that it would respond to Ms West’s call for a review “as soon as possible”.