The 'revenge evictions' leaving care home residents homeless

ITV News' Paul Brand has this special report on 'revenge evictions' leaving vulnerable people homeless and families struggling to find care homes able to care for their loved ones

Thousands of vulnerable people are being evicted from their care homes with just 28 days notice, ITV figures have revealed.

Data obtained for the Tonight programme shows that care homes told the regulator they had served more than 11,000 'notices to quit' in the 18 months to April last year, meaning that the person in question had to find somewhere else to live.

The figures from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) equate to one in every 33 residents being told to leave in that time period.

Campaigners say the evictions leave vulnerable people, often with advanced dementia or physical disabilities, desperately searching for a new care home, frequently within just four weeks.

The data only covers England and relies on care homes informing the regulator that they have served an eviction notice, meaning the number UK-wide is likely to be far higher.

There are several reasons why a care home might serve notice on a resident, including an inability to meet their care needs if their health significantly deteriorates or if a resident is violent.

But Tonight has been looking into claims that some residents are being evicted not because of any reason to do with them - but instead because complaints raised by the resident's family members brought them into conflict with the home.

In Sheffield, Jane Freeman's father, Richard, was forced to move homes despite his advanced dementia.

'I miss him saying I love you': Jane believes her father Richard might not have deteriorated as quickly if he hadn't been evicted from his care home

The family had been happy with his current care home until Covid hit and they began to raise concerns about the quality of phone calls and visits.

An eviction notice was suddenly served on Richard mid-pandemic, with the care home citing a deteriorating relationship with Jane which they said was affecting the running of the home.

She admits she raised her voice at staff in frustration about her father's situation, but insists she only wanted the best for her dad.

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Jane told Tonight: "It was a massive shock. We were putting in a plan to fix the telephone line, but instead they found myself and my sister too difficult to work with, so the decision was we're washing our hands of you, we don't want this problem anymore and here's the eviction. We were distraught."

Jane managed to find another home within the 28 day timeframe, but she says the move has accelerated her father's decline.

I asked her: "Do you think if you hadn't complained, your dad would still be in that care home?"

"Yes. I wholeheartedly do," she told me. "And I find it very sad that it did end up like it did.

"He's deteriorated a lot. I do think if he had stayed at his current home and not had this disruption that dip might have happened at a later stage."

Campaigners say in other instances so-called 'revenge evictions' are taking place solely due to complaints raised by relatives over the quality of care.

It isn't just older people who are at risk of suddenly having to find somewhere else to live.

Jo Fisher 'cried' after a two-year search for a care home that could look after her son Bradley, who suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and learning difficulties. Now, she has just two months to find him a new care home due to the centre closing down

Around a third of care home residents are working age adults. They include Jo Fisher's 30-year-old son, Bradley, who has epilepsy, cerebral palsy and profound learning difficulties.

Last month, his home told Jo that it was closing and all the residents would need to leave.

She and the other families now have until August to find new homes that can care for individuals with a range of complex needs.

"It's ridiculous. It's just not possible," she told me. "It took us two years to find where he is now. So how on earth are we going to do that in three months?"

"None of us know where our loved ones are going. It's scary. So scary."

Bradley's home is closing due to an issue with staffing. Across the country there are 165,000 unfilled vacancies in care, meaning many homes are stretched to the limit.

This may explain why the number of evictions appears to be rising, as homes are left unable to look after residents with complex needs who need extra attention.

Nadra Ahmed, from the National Care Association, told Tonight: "You have to think if you are complaining consistently about the level of care that's being delivered, then eventually that provider and the staff will be feeling that anything that they do is not going to be sufficient."

"That might impact on the member of staff. You have to remember, we have a workforce crisis here.

"And the staff are trying to do the very best that they can. Now that does not excuse poor care, but I think the vast majority of providers will do all that they can in order to ensure that they can meet the needs."

With the situation putting strain on both families and staff, campaigners say the problem is exacerbated by a lack of any mediation service that could help resolve disputes.

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Helen Wildbore from Care Rights UK, which runs a helpline for residents and their families, told Tonight: "There's the Care Quality Commission - the regulator for England - who you can report concerns to about an inappropriate or unfair eviction.

"And there's also the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. But so often people find that the 28 days notice has run out before the Ombudsman will even hear their case."

She believes an independent mediation service would help resolve disputes before they lead to an eviction.

She added: "It's a really dangerous situation that we've created where the power imbalance is so skewed that people are afraid to speak out.

"And if they do speak out, they can be asked to leave and then scramble around to try and find a new home."

Last year, Parliament considered a bill to give care home residents more rights, but it has not been taken forward.

The Department of Health and Social Care told Tonight: "We strongly condemn ungrounded evictions. Residents and their loved ones should feel empowered to speak out if they are unhappy with levels of care without repercussions.

"The Care Quality Commission already takes action if it finds that providers are in breach of regulations, including failures to operate an effective system for complaints."

You can watch ITV Tonight - Elderly & Evicted: Our Care Home Crisis? at 8.30pm on Thursday June 22 on ITV1 or catch up on ITVX.