Norfolk care home boss took home extra £2m

Norfolk care home boss took home extra £2m

A property tycoon paid himself an extra £2m last year after his care home business received £2m in furlough pay and government grants.

Gordon Sanders, 75, owns Runwood Homes and has an estimated net worth of £250m. He paid himself £1m in dividends in 2019 and then £3m in 2020, after the firm received £2.02m in taxpayer-funded hand-outs.

Runwood’s care homes include three in Norfolk, one of which was only lifted out of special measures last year, under threat of closure by the Care Quality Commission.

The company made a profit of £19.8m last year, when the average salary of its 4,000 staff was less than £17,000.

It comes two years after the company axed a befriending programme for high school students to visit elderly residents with dementia, claiming it could not afford the scheme’s £2,500-a-year running costs.

Gordon Sanders, pictured at the Windmill Care Home in 2019

– Credit: Sonya Duncan

Eileen Chubb, founder of the whistleblowing charity Compassion in Care, said: “Every day we deal with people who’ve lost loved ones for want of investment in care homes, and staff who are living on the breadline.

“It is absolutely obscene that anybody should be paying themselves that amount of money, especially when the money has come from the taxpayer. 

“It’s beyond immoral. That money should be ploughed back into investment in homes and care.”

According to accounts filed at Companies House for their financial year ending September 2020, the business received a total of £2,019,315 in government grants, including Mutual Aid and Infection Control funding to help with the costs of the pandemic. A company spokeswoman confirmed the firm also took furlough payments.

The accounts show Mr Sanders, a company director and its sole shareholder, took a dividend of £3,000,000 in 2020, up from £1,000,000 in 2019.

The company also paid its highest-paid director £3,044,084 in salary in 2020, and a similar amount the year before.

The other five directors split just over £1m between them. Meanwhile the company’s 4,557 employees received an average salary of £16,765.

Eilieen Chubb, founder of the whistleblowing charity Compassion in Care

Eileen Chubb of the charity Compassion In Care called the situation “beyond immoral” and called for the money to be reinvested in patient care
– Credit: Eileen Chubb

There is no suggestion Mr Sanders or Runwood Homes have broken the law or are in breach of the rules of the furlough scheme, although other profitable companies including Primark, Asos, Ikea and Halfords have paid back the money to the Treasury.

In the property sector, where Mr Sanders made his money before converting the business to care homes, most big house builders have also repaid the cash after better-than-expected profits. Redrow Chairman John Tutte said it was “hard to justify taking the money”.

Runwood Homes runs The Mill House care home in Horstead, St Michael’s Court in Aylsham and Windmill House in Wymondham.

St Michael's Court care home in Aylsham

St Michael’s Court care home in Aylsham

– Credit: Colin Finch

The Mill House currently has a “good” rating from the CQC, with its safety levels rated “requires improvement”.

St Michael’s Court received three damning inspections in ten months in 2019.

Two years ago inspectors discovered the home was operating without a registered manager, found dirty clothing in communal areas was left unmoved from one day to the next risking infection, and found residents were not always seen when they needed help due to lack of staff. 

The home faced closure if it did not improve its “inadequate” rating. Runwood said it implemented a “robust plan” which had improved matters by the time of an inspection in spring of 2020. The home is now rated “good”.

Students from Wymomdham High School receive their certificates for taking part in a befriending sche

Students from Wymomdham High School took part in a befriending programme at Windmill House in Wymondham until Runwood Homes shut the £2,500-a-year scheme down for budget reasons.

– Credit: Sonya Duncan

Windmill House is rated Outstanding by the CQC. From 2016 to 2019 it was the site of a befriending scheme launched by the Young Person of the Year organisation (YOPEY) which trained Wymondham High Academy students to go into the home for one hour a week to talk to elderly patients with dementia.

The £2,500-a-year scheme was praised by students and care staff alike, and the participants’ achievements were recognised by the High Sheriff of Norfolk in 2017.

But in mid-2019 Runwood axed the scheme, writing to YOPEY to say: “Due to budget constraints I must inform you Runwood can longer financially support you.” 

The company has gone on to claim more furlough money in the current year, according to a recent disclosure by HMRC for the period December 2020 to April 2021. 

The Windmill Care Home in Wymondham

The Windmill Care Home in Wymondham

– Credit: Google Streetview

The data, which is published in bands, shows Runwood claimed between £50,001 and £100,000 in December 2020, between £100,001 and £250,000 in each of January, February and March of 2021, then £25,001 to £50,000 in April.

Gordon Sanders declined to comment when contacted. 

A spokeswoman for Runwood Homes said: “Following government advice, we chose to furlough a small percentage of staff who were unable to work in their frontline care roles, due to extreme clinical vulnerability, shielding and through the emerging risk they were exposed to as healthcare workers. This was the right thing to do.”

She added that the health of residents and staff had been the top priority throughout the year and the firm had launched enhanced sick pay to support staff who faced financial difficulty due to having to self-isolate and provided access to 24-hour emotional support.

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