Care provider Sheffcare says 11x higher energy bills may force homes to shut down

·3-min read

A leading care home provider is warning the energy crisis may force it to shut down some of its residential care homes unless there is urgent government intervention to help pay its fuel bills.

Claire Rintoul, the chief executive of Sheffcare, told Sky News the company's winter fuel bills will be 11 times higher than normal.

"We pay around £90,000 a year for fuel well across all of our nine homes," she said.

"We've been quoted £1.16m extra. It just doesn't work. That is just not a realistic figure that we can afford. The worst-case scenario, we close down. That is the absolute worst-case scenario."

It is not only energy bills that are putting the care sector under unsustainable pressure. Staff recruitment and retention is a real issue. Many care workers have been forced to leave poorly paid jobs to find better-paid and less stressful work in the retail sector.

It is something June Hill does not want to do. She has worked at the Grange Crescent Care Home in Sheffield for 24 years, more than half her adult working life. But now Ms Hill accepts she may be forced to quit for a better-paid job.

"Somebody has to do it. Somebody has to care for the residents. They become your family. I care about what happens to the residents here," she said.

"I can go and find work somewhere else, but I don't want to and I don't think I should have to. Just give us enough that we can live and we can pay our bills and we can heat our houses and heat our food. I don't think that's too much to ask for."

Ms Hill is worried about what will happen to her residents if the home is forced to shut down. "Who will care for them?" she asked.

The bills for the care home have gone up in every department, from food to cleaning. Asha Oliver, its manager, said they are trying to save costs wherever they can. But she worries that she has overspent on all her budgets.

"We can't cut back any more. You know, we can't say: 'Oh, it's 10 o'clock at night. Let's turn the lights off.'

"You know, we can't say to somebody you've had three cups of tea today, that's enough because we can't afford to boil the kettle any more. We just cannot cut back any more, we just can't."

To the energy company, Grange Crescent Residential Care Home is just another business struggling to pay its bills.

But for resident Carol Jessop, it is more than just a business, it is her home.

Ms Jessop said she is lucky because she has her son and daughter. But lots of her friends have nobody else.

"Devastating, just devastating," she said about the prospect of the home shutting down. "I have family near by, but many people here don't have anyone."

Angela Argenzio, co-chair of the city council's adult health and social care policy committee, told Sky News: "Sheffield City Council recognises the impact of the energy and cost of living crisis on everyone, including the care sector and the people we support across Sheffield.

"We are developing plans to support a response to the crisis which includes the care sector and our most vulnerable residents.

"The rising cost of energy is having a huge negative effect on residents and businesses, and I believe the government needs to do more to protect people from footing the bill as prices continue to soar."