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Hackney's cash-strapped 'Telecare' helpline provider will hand over to new provider, council confirms

PUBLISHED: 15:12 05 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 05 May 2017

A file image of Appleton Court, Marcon Close, where Steadfast Careline occupies a flat. Picture: Google StreetView

A file image of Appleton Court, Marcon Close, where Steadfast Careline occupies a flat. Picture: Google StreetView

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A troubled firm that runs an emergency helpline for disabled and elderly people in Hackney is to stop providing the service, after cashflow problems that left staff waiting to be paid.

The Gazette reported last week that staff at Steadfast Carelines Ltd had not been paid on time on two occasions this year.

They said the firm was severely cash-strapped, and the Gazette saw evidence several pension contributions taken out of one person’s wage slip had not been paid into the actual pension scheme.

Two days after the story’s publication it emerged the firm would soon no longer provide the service, which allows disabled and elderly people to live independently by giving them an alarm they can activate for urgent help.

A spokesman for the council said this was because of a review of the contract that highlighted “ongoing concerns” that were “not related to the delivery of the service”.

But the company’s managing director Owen Shead claimed it was Steadfast that pulled the plug, not the council.

He said: “I would advise that we have confirmed to the council that we no longer wish to continue service provision in Hackney, although we continue to thrive elsewhere in the country.

“It is inappropriate to comment further, other than to reaffirm our commitment to supporting a seamless transfer of service as part of our duty of care to our vulnerable clients.”

The firm, then called Community Voice, took over the £1.8million three-year contract for Hackney’s “telecare” service from Hanover Homes in October 2015 and nine staff were transferred over from the old provider.

But in February Community Voice went into voluntary administration and changed its name to Steadfast, when a lost tax dispute meant it had to pay the Inland Revenue £1.2million.

One employee who spoke to the Gazette said he was “delighted” and “relieved” he would soon work for a new employer.

“Those characters would say that,” said Mr Shead, who has promised no employee will lose any contributions or benefits.

He said 20 out of 23 pay packages to staff had been made “on time or, often, early”.

The council did not confirm whether a tender had been held to find the new provider, which it is “in early discussions” with.

Anne Canning, group director of children, adults and community health, said: “The council will continue to work closely with Steadfast Carelines Ltd to ensure that residents experience no change in their telecare service during a handover to a new provider.”

Last week, the Oldham Chronicle reported that Community Voice had given four days’ notice it was terminating its contract with Oldham Council. In his defence Mr Shead said it had been the council’s decision to transfer the clients to another provider at such short notice.

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