By Owen Shepherd, Local Democracy Correspondent
Town hall chiefs are looking for a firm to staff a new £24 million care home, after the company it planned on hiring became the subject of a police probe.
Beachcroft House, with 84 bedrooms for elderly and disabled residents, is due to open in Maida Vale later this year, next to the historic BBC recording studios.
The five-storey development in Shirland Road will also be built beside a new block of 31 luxury flats called the Masefield, which the council will sell to finance the scheme.
But Westminster council has hit a snag in trying to find a care service provider who will run and staff Beachcroft.
Until late 2019, Sanctuary Care Ltd, which runs 100 UK care homes, was lined up for the job. However, this plan was knocked off course by allegations that Sanctuary’s staff had abused vulnerable residents at Garside Nursing Home, south of the borough in Pimlico.
Police interviewed four members of staff under caution after launching their investigation in October. Scotland Yard said on January 14 that the investigation is ongoing.
Government watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), inspected Garside in November and gave the nursing home a devastating ‘Inadequate’ rating – the lowest possible score.
Westminster council is said to be concerned that Sanctuary also received a poor rating at another local care home it runs, Carlton Dene care home in West Kilburn. The CQC rated it as “requires improvement” in January 2019 but has not re-inspected it since.
Councillor Heather Acton, the council’s cabinet member for health and family services, said on January 15: “Whilst we are still working through the details, it remains our priority to have a high quality care service in place within a time frame that enables the managed, smooth transition of residents into their new home at Beachcroft.”
The elderly and disabled residents who move into Beachcroft will be residents who currently live in Carlton Dene, and a second care home run by Sanctuary, Westmead Residential Care Home in Westbourne Park.
Sanctuary Care was approached for comment but the company did not wish to respond.
Meanwhile, opposition councillors from the local Labour party have urged Westminster’s Conservative-run administration to bring Beachcroft in-house and staff it itself.
Local Labour leader and Councillor Adam Hug said: “We think the contract for Beachcroft should be in-house, but the council has been reluctant.
“The advantages would be greater awareness of what’s going on at the care home day-to-day, greater ability to integrate with other council services, and control over staff pay and conditions.”
The council plans to close Westmead and Carlton Dene care homes because they “were not up to modern standards and could not offer residents a care environment to maximise their dignity”.
A council report from 2017 said a previous incarnation of Beachcroft House was built in the 1960s and used as a children’s home. It was later used as a pupil referral unit and offices used by social services.
The new, adjoining Masefield building has been named after local resident and former poet laureate of the United Kingdom, John Masefield, who died in 1967.
Pictured is an artist’s impression of what Beachcroft House would look like
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