A disability charity has insisted that it is not selling out Deaf people, after announcing the sale of its entire portfolio of care and support services.
The sale will see Action on Hearing Loss (AHL) – formerly known as RNID – off-loading all 23 of its care homes in England and Wales, as well as its supported living, community, outreach and domiciliary care services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
AHL said there were no plans for any closures of services, and no indication that any of its care homes would close under their new owner.
The charity’s website says it has been supporting people who are Deaf, deafblind or have hearing loss to live independently by providing care and support services since 1929.
The strategy is being carried out under chief executive Mark Atkinson (pictured), who said just 12 months ago that the charity had no plans to carry out the same kind of mass sale of services that he oversaw in his previous position, as chief executive of the disability charity Scope.
An AHL spokesperson told Disability News Service this week: “This was true at the time of writing, but the Board of Trustees made the decision at a later date.”
AHL also admitted this week that it had not consulted its service-providers before taking the decision to sell its care and support portfolio.
And it denied that the sale would see it move further away from supporting culturally-Deaf people and towards a focus on medical and hearing loss issues and research into cures for deafness.
The charity said it would “continue to work with the Deaf community through our community and information service and through our influencing work”.
It insisted that the sale of the services was a “strategic decision to enable us to focus our resources on fewer – but more wide-ranging – activities”.
A spokesperson said: “These will include community services and influencing which will positively impact people with all levels of deafness and hearing loss.
“While we’re incredibly proud of our heritage as a care provider, we believe a different provider can deliver the same excellent and culturally appropriate service we do – but also offer more investment. This will benefit our staff and the people we support.”
She said the charity was now talking to service-users and their families and supporters about its plans, and that they now “have the opportunity to tell us what they think so that we can ensure the new provider is aware of what is important to them about their service”.
She said: “We don’t plan to close any services. All potential providers presented proposals to take on all services as well as care and support staff.
“There is no indication that any of our care homes will close. Indeed, everyone is committed to developing the services.”
And she said those organisations that had bid to run the services had to meet “strict criteria”, including “a clear commitment to continuity of care”; the ability to provide a “culturally appropriate service”; a commitment to invest in the services; and a track record of operating similar services to a “good regulatory standard”.
She said the board had also looked for a commitment to retain or deploy staff directly involved in delivering services, and added: “The expectation is that all staff working in our care and support services will continue to work in the services and transfer to work for the new provider via a TUPE process.”
As well as AHL and Scope, the disability charity Leonard Cheshire has also attracted controversy by selling off care homes.
In 2018, Leonard Cheshire was accused of making “a complete mockery” of its supposed commitment to service-user involvement after it suddenly told residents of 17 of its care homes that it planned to sell them to other care providers.
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