Fears have been raised for elderly residents at two East Dunbartonshire care homes after it emerged industry giant Four Seasons has collapsed into administration.
The company is set to appoint corporate undertakers at Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) to carry out the process following an aborted sale attempt.
Four Seasons houses 22,000 elderly residents across 322 homes, although the firm insists that operations will be unaffected by the move.
The company has two care homes locally - Campsie View, Kirkintilloch and Whitefield Lodge in Lennoxtown.
The collapse will be the biggest care homes failure since Southern Cross went bust in 2011.
Late last year, US hedge fund H2 Capital Partners, which effectively controls Four Seasons, ordered a sale of the crisis-hit company, which is struggling under a £525 million debt mountain. The bulk of the debt is held by H2, which is run by Spencer Haber.
Only weeks ago, Four Seasons insisted that it had “sufficient operating liquidity” to be able to complete the sale process.
A&M will now attempt to sell the group out of administration.
National charity for older people, Age Scotland, is calling for reassurances for residents who will be worried about their long term care provision.
Four Seasons operates over 30 care residential homes in total across Scotland.
Brian Sloan, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive said: “This news demonstrates the significant challenges faced by the social care sector if one of the biggest operators in the business is facing administration.
“No doubt alarm bells will be ringing at the highest levels of the Scottish Government and Local Authorities who should be looking at how they ensure continuity of care if no buyer is found for the business.
“It is vital that those people at the heart of this, the residents, families and staff of the large number of care homes operated by Four Seasons, are given reassurance that there will be no change to their care as today’s news will be a worrying time for them all.
“Age Scotland has been warning of the challenges in the social care sector for years. There are significant funding and staffing issues which makes the level of social care older people deserve more and more difficult to provide.
“With around 100 fewer care homes in Scotland than there were a decade ago, an ageing population and a projected 50% increase in the number of people living with dementia over the next 20 years, it is vital that our precious social care system is properly resourced and supported for the long term.”
Meanwhile, GMB Scotland Senior Organiser Drew Duffy said: “This is yet another case in point of the crisis in our care sector.
“Our immediate priority is the safeguard of our members’ jobs and conditions across Four Seasons homes in Scotland and to help tackle any uncertainty for an estimated 1,800 service users and their families.
“That’s why we have asked for an urgent meeting with the Scottish Government and COSLA representatives. We will also continue to work with our union across the rest of the UK and in our engagements with the employer, administrators and the UK Government.
“Four Seasons is just the tip of the iceberg and there is a far wider debate that needs to be had about the sustainability of our care sector in its present form.
“Let’s be clear that the public purse is largely funding these failing providers and the financiers behind them, while the rights of workers at the coal face, mainly low paid women, are constantly under attack. This is a toxic mix for staff and service users alike.
“If we leave this unchallenged then we will only continue to revisit the problems we are facing today in Four Seasons elsewhere in the sector. This must stop and the sector must change.”