Pensions probe into firm that runs ‘telecare’ helpline for Hackney’s disabled and elderly

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

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

A firm that staffs an emergency helpline for disabled and elderly people in Hackney has not paid staff on time and can’t afford to put toilet roll in their office, workers claim.

Community Voice Ltd changed its name to Steadfast Carelines Ltd after going into voluntary administration in February, after paying the Inland Revenue £1.2million following a tax dispute.

The firm took over the £1.8m three-year contract for Hackney’s “telecare” service from Hanover Homes in October 2015.

The service allows disabled and elderly people to live independently, by giving them an alarm they can activate if they need urgent help.

Nine staff stationed at a flat in Appleton Court off Amhurst Road claim they haven’t been paid on time since January, and the Gazette has seen evidence that several pension contributions taken out of one person’s wage slip have not been paid into the actual pension scheme. The Pensions Regulator is thought to be investigating.

The worker, who spoke to the Gazette anonymously, said: “We are begging them for our wages sometimes. Some of us need a car to work and didn’t have enough money for petrol. We have rent and mortgages to pay. London isn’t a cheap city.

“We are also working in bad conditions where they are not getting a regular supply of toilet paper. We don’t have tissues to wipe our hands – we have to wipe them on our clothes. We don’t know what’s happening.

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“We save a lot of lives with this service. People might be diabetic and go into a coma; there might be people having a heart attack.”

Owen Shead, chief exec of Carelines and Steadfast, told the Gazette staff were paid a day early this month, and vowed: “No employee will lose out on a pensions transfer or any contributions or benefits.

“Like many companies in today’s climate, there have been recent cash flow difficulties but things are now getting back on track. In the main, staff have been very supportive and service delivery has never been disrupted in any way.”

A town hall spokesman said Hackney had asked Steadfast for assurance it would rectify the issues around payments and working conditions. “Hackney Council has put in place enhanced monitoring since learning Community Voice Ltd has gone into voluntary administration,” he said, “which includes regularly meeting Steadfast Careline Ltd to examine its financial stability.”