Staff angry after firm fails to pay wages

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A Lancaster care company failed to pay its staff wages after having its contract terminated by Lancashire County Council.

Lancaster based Heritage Homecare Ltd contacted staff on March 1 to tell them they wouldn’t be paid for February.

The company apologised, blaming the council for not paying invoices and claiming it received less than 10 per cent of the total invoice it billed the authority.

But the council said it had paid the company what was owed and announced that it would not be contracting any new care with the Morecambe Road based home care provider.

Lancashire Police have now launched an inquiry, and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said it was “jointly monitoring the situation closely to ensure people are not at risk of immediate harm”.

The CQC has also taken enforcement action against the company to remove its Nelson branch from its registration and there is also a winding up petition against the firm.

The county council said it has been transferring care to other registered home care providers, but staff have been left in the lurch.

One carer says she will end up losing her home because she has not received a wage for two months.

The woman, who did not wish to be named said: “I didn’t get paid on February 29 for hours worked in January and they will still owe me another wage at the end of March for hours worked in February.

“I cannot pay my rent this month so will end up losing my home too.

“I won’t receive my P45 until the end of March which then impacts on future jobs.”

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

“A lot of us left because of how the company is being run.”

The 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 did not receive proper levels of care. Heritage Homecare refuted the claims, saying they were “unfounded”.

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

No-one at Heritage Homecare was available for comment.

County Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “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.

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.”

The letter to staff, signed by the company’s directors Angela Hughes and Kay Randle, read: “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.

“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.”