The title of this blog is meant to be "Care" homes. I'd be interested to know from any linguist in what language the first word is written and, from any knowledgeable computer buff, how to stop my machine playing this trick.
A wise economist, probably Will Hutton but I'm not sure, pointed out a few yeas ago that there is no point in privatising something if it cannot be allowed to go bankrupt. This comment was made in relation to vital infrastructure enterprises such as railways and utilities. The care homes run by Southern Cross add a different dimension.
Clearly, this company cannot be allowed to cease trading in the normal way and the 32 000 elderly people it cares for turned out into the streets. So Southern Cross is insulated from the normal rules of the market. How this particular impasse is to be solved remains to be seen - presumably by the public sector picking up the tab as usual after the private sector owners have walked away with the profits.
To avoid similar situations in the future legislation should be introduced which limits the capacity of any care home "chains" to, say, 500 people, so that in the event of business failure the residents can be absorbed by the existing system. Chains with a greater capacity than this, such as Four Seasons, should be broken up.
Better still, bring personal care back into the public realm, as here is no evidence that the private sector performs this funciton more effectively: probably the reverse.
A former pupil with whom I spent last weekend and who has flourished in the law profession explained to me how private firms which take over such facilities from local authorities further enhance their profits and insulate themselves from losses by splitting the "property" part of the acquisition form the operating part, and are very good at flogging off the property when the market is at its peak. For details of this abuse please click here.