Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
4:25 PM 16th April 2021

Letter Concerning Our Article "York Central MP Warns Rogue Private Care Providers"

We publish below a response from Mr Anton Palmer of Independent Home Living (IHL) to our article called "York Central MP Warns Rogue Private Care Providers" published on 14th April 2021.

Our article resulted in the threat of an injunction seeking the removal of the article from our website and further legal action seeking damages for any loss of reputation as a consequence of article.

The letter from Mr Palmer has been reproduced here verbatim and without comment:

On 14th April 2021, Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, issued a press release in respect of Independent Home Living. Regrettably, the press release contains a number of false and inaccurate statements about Independent Home Living. Ms Maskell issued her press release without first making proper enquiries and without giving giving Independent Home Living an opportunity to respond to the press release.

The press release is entitled “Rogue private care providers”. The suggestion that Independent Home Living is a rogue private care provider is defamatory and wholly inaccurate. Independent Home Living is not a private care company but is a domiciliary care provider that looks after vulnerable adults in their own home. It is subject to a governing body and Local Authority scrutiny. Independent Home Living have a rating of “good” in all areas indicating that the company is achieving all required standards. The suggestion that Independent Home Living is a "rogue" provider is insulting and categorically untrue.

Ms Maskell's press release asserts that certain of her constituents have relayed stories of an “absolute failure of the company to pay its hard-working staff on time resulting in a majority of staff in York leaving the company”. The statement is factually inaccurate.Independent Home Living employs over 100 staff across three branches. Independent Home Living has many long standing employees who have worked for the company for many years. The very small number of staff who recently left the employment of the company had all been paid their full salary. It is a matter of regret for Independent Home Living that this small group of employees abandoned their roles without warning and without giving written notice, in breach of their contracts of employment. Their actions were taken without any due care or regard for their vulnerable clients.

Independent Home Living understands that the source of Ms Maskell's complaints are two individuals. Independent Home Living is clear that the views of those individuals in no way reflects the general views of Independent Home Living's employees and former employees.

Ms Maskell's suggestion that a "majority" of Independent Home Living employees have left the company is categorically untrue and inaccurate. Ms Maskell's statement also asserts that the recent departure of employees has forced Independent Home Living to rely on external agency staff. Independent Home Living has worked hard to ensure that the recent departure of a small number of employees has caused no disruption whatsoever to its clients. All of Independent Home Living's clients have continued to receive all of their contractual care visits to the usual high standard from qualified employees.

Ms Maskel's press release also asserts that the director of Independent Home Living, Mr Anton Palmer, has been elusive, directing all enquiries to his solicitor. This is a further false and inaccurate statement. Solicitors have not been involved in any previous discussions or communications with Ms Maskell. Ms Maskell sent a total of two emails to Mr Palmer's office. Mr Palmer directed his office to respond to Ms Maskell's first email and was in the process of preparing a response to Ms Maskell's second email before Ms Maskell issued her press release without warning.

Ms Maskell's press release suggests that Independent Home Living employees are low paid. Independent Home Living employee salaries are extremely competitive and are higher than many other comparable employers in the area.

Ms Maskell's press release further asserts that the Care Quality Commission are "looking into the company". Independent Home Living operates in a clear and transparent manner and proactively notified both the CQC and Local Authority following the recent departure of a small number of employees. Independent Home Living has been in regular contact with the Local Authority and the CQC in order to provide assurance that the actions of the departing staff would not impact on client care or the quality of the services being provided. This is a routine procedure in a highly regulated industry.

Ms Maskell refers in her press release to Huggies Cares Limited. It is apparent that Ms Maskell has not investigated this matter properly. The only connection between Independent Home Living and Huggies Care Limited is Mr Palmer who purchased the latter company when it was in a distressed state with a view to reviving the fortunes of the business. Regrettably this was not possible, but the failure of Huggies Care Limited was a consequence of the conduct of the previous owners of the business not Mr Palmer. The matter has no relevance to Independent Home Living.

Independent Home Living is a responsible employer that treats its employees fairly. Independent Home Living pays its staff on time. The company has been applauded for the work it has carried out during the pandemic, in which time it has increased employee wages by £3.50per hour. The Company also prides itself that all staff members were provided work during this difficult time and that it did not take advantage of the Government furlough scheme. Staff have been paid to isolate where necessary and PPE was provided for all staff, ensuring not only their safety but that of their clients.

Ms Maskell's false allegations about the company have upset Independent Home Living's hard working and committed staff. It is a mat[t]er of great concern to Independent Home Living that a sitting Member of Parliament saw fit to issue a press release containing seriously false and defamatory statements without proper investigation and without first permitting Independent Home Living a right of reply.