Council hits back over worker's claims from Collins House and challenges the truth of whistle-blower's account

  Posted: 17.04.21 at 20:31 by The Editor

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AFTER months of silence, Thurrock Council has broken the aura of secrecy it has thrown around the Collins House care home in Corringham in the wake of a hard-hitting Thurrock Nub News story.

Last week we told the story of a care worker at the residential home which gave a harrowing view and personal opinion of the way staff are treated by employers, Thurrock Council, at the home.

The home has been at the centre of much attention over recent times, most notably on New Year’s Eve 2019 when residents had to be evacuated and moved to temporary new residents because of failure of the site’s electrical systems.

Residents and staff bemoaned the lack of maintenance and investment and the problems at the home were recognised by local councillor Shane Ralph who said: “Unfortunately the location is out of date and needs a lot of work.”

The council, other than a conciliatory statement from leader Cllr Rob Gledhill - who praised residents by saying: "Their positivity and ‘can do’ attitudes have played an enormous role in making sure dealing with this unforeseen issue has gone as smoothly as it has” – said little about the state of the home and brushed a number of subsequent media questions under the carpet.

As 2020 rolled on and the Covid-19 pandemic took a grip on the region, it was obvious that Collins House was once more in the front line.

Stories emerged of poor care and number of deaths – but once again the council remained tight-lipped and ignored requests from the media for information about the state of conditions in the home, and the level to which Covid was claiming lives and causing ill-health.

And alongside Covid, plans by the council to change the terms and conditions of its care employees began to cause increasing concern.

Last week, despite being in fear of victimisation, but clearly at a point of desperation, a worker at the home told an ‘inside story’ that spoke of a significant number of deaths, appalling conditions, a lack of dignity for the dying and a council that was turning its back on those most in need – staff and residents!

And the stark nature of the article and the public comment it created has prompted the council to issue its own counter-story, which we are happy to print in full.

The council says:

“There were a number of inaccuracies and misleading statements in the ‘workers story’ featured in your story titled “Emotive and thought-provoking story from death-stricken Covid front line in Corringham. Why one worker says the planned cuts to terms and conditions by Thurrock Council are wrong” of 10 April which it is important to bring to your attention.

“..residents passed away in droves.. s]aff were walking into rooms and finding residents dead when they had not long been speaking to them.”

Throughout the pandemic seven residents died at Collins House after testing positive for COVID-19. All but one of those who sadly passed away were on their end of life pathway or had serious underlying health conditions. It is completely untrue to say that any resident died alone or was discovered dead, every single resident that has sadly died was accompanied by family or staff in their final hours, they always have been at Collins House.

“Staffing was critically low, no carers, no cleaners at the worst part. The odd few carers that weren’t infected worked alone with 80 per cent less workforce.”

At no point were 80% of staff off work due to testing positive for COVID-19. When the COVID-19 epidemic in Thurrock was at an all-time high over Christmas due to the new variant of the virus becoming the dominant strain in the borough, there were days when only a third of the workforce were able to work but additional agency staff were brought in on those days to help support them and ensure that residents were properly cared for.

The council also re-deployed other social care staff including senior managers to work in front line carer roles within Collins House to address the shortfall and provide support to the remaining workforce. Meals on wheels services provided food for residents and laundry was outsourced to keep staff on site free to help residents.

“No extra thanks or support from the big dogs. We were offered online counselling but that’s it.”

Staff at Collins House, and indeed all of the council’s residential care homes, have been supported throughout the pandemic and special measures were put in place to ensure they received priority testing. Special measures were also put in place to ensure that all staff at Collins House were offered additional counselling which was above and beyond the services available through the council’s Employee Assistance Programme.

“The council wants to cut additional pay for bank holiday working and night shift workers to now work for a day rate, which is going to lose them a lot of staff… And take a cut to our yearly increment which is a few pennies to our hourly rate every year.”

The vast majority of staff working at Collins House benefit under the proposals for both stages of the Pay Review having received pay increases and additional headroom in 2019 as part Phase 1 of the review that more than offset any proposed change in allowances. Under the proposals, only five out of 88 members of staff could see an overall negative impact and we are discussing ways to compensate these individuals. No final decision will be made on the proposals until the staff consultation is completed. There have been no cuts to staff salaries or yearly increments and there are no proposals to do so in the future.

Editor's comment

Thurrock Nub News is happy to publish in full - and as sent to us six days after our original story - the statement received from the council.

Clearly the comments from the care worker have touched a very raw nerve. It is a shame the council's consistent and continued reluctance to brief the media and work with us, means there is little alternative but to forge ahead and publish in good faith the stories that are given to us.

I am reminded of that adage: "There are three sides to every story. The two people telling it and the truth - which usually sits in the middle!"

Thurrock Council has an aversion to telling the truth, it is interesting that it has reacted so strongly to this story. The shame is, this is an unattributed rebuttal from a megalithic and often vindictive organisation. We don't know who has said it and we don't know who sanctioned it - but we are happy to let readers decide where the truth lies.

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