Give us our £55,000 back: Care home residents lose savings after business goes bust

Battle: Evelyn Brown's son Derek in fight to recover cash.
Battle: Evelyn Brown's son Derek in fight to recover cash.
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VULNERABLE elderly residents have lost £55,000 in savings - after the firm running a Sheffield care home went bust, swallowing up their money in the liquidation process.

The sum relates to at least six different old people at Abbey Grange care home in Cammell Road, Firth Park, whose personal money was paid into the home’s business account during their stays there.

It meant when Larongrove Ltd, the company which ran the home, went into administration all their cash was lost.

An investigation by South Yorkshire Police’s fraud squad has now concluded no action can be taken, since there is no proof anyone acted dishonestly or with criminal intent.

But good practice guidelines for care homes state residents’ money should be kept separately from the firm’s business account.

Derek Brown’s 96-year-old mother Evelyn built up £11,289 in the account during her eight-year stay there.

It relates to money she was allowed to keep from her pension - after paying for her care - for her own ‘personal use’.

Derek, from Chapeltown, said he did not even know it was being paid in.

The 71-year-old said: “It’s money that was paid in every time she got her pension, and was meant to pay for things like a visit from the hairdresser or for someone who came to do her nails.

“But I didn’t even know this money was there, so I would always give money to the home to cover things like that when I went to visit.

“You’re just so pleased they are getting looked after, and that everything seems alright, you’re not thinking about money - it doesn’t cross your mind. But it meant it just built up and up.”

He found out about the cash only after his mother’s death last April, but by then it was already too late since Larongrove had gone bust the previous August.

Now he is determined to have the money returned to his family - and is demanding someone take responsibility.

“Somebody was responsible for overseeing that money,” he said. “My mother won’t let me rest in peace until I get it back.”

Mary Scalisi, from Norton Woodseats, is another relative who believes a loved one’s money was lost. More than £2,000 belonging to her cousin Colin Farrent, in his 80s, is missing.

She said she has been battling for more information for the past year - after receiving a letter from Sheffield Council advising her that an investigation into the management of residents’ funds was taking place.

“I’ve given up now because all the stress was making me ill,” she said. “It seems so unfair.”

Inspectors from the Commission for Social Care Inspection - now the Care Quality Commission - visited Abbey Grange in May 2009.

Although they recorded that residents’ money was being held in the company account, nothing was said about the policy being changed - rather, the company was ordered to ensure residents received interest on the sums kept in the firm’s bank account.

Larongrove went bust three months later.

Steve Titterton, from South Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said it is not laid down in law that residents’ funds should be kept in separate client accounts.

“The regulations say they should be kept separately, but not that they must,” he said. “It needs a law changing so homes are clear that they must have a separate client and business account.”

A new system was brought in by the Care Quality Commission last year where mismanagement or misuse of funds is treated as ‘financial abuse’, meaning the commission can take enforcement action against homes which do not comply.