North East Care Home Manager Sacked For Caring Too Much

THE manager of a sheltered housing scheme fears she has lost her job and her home – for caring too much.

Dozens of residents are now leading a campaign to reinstate Linda Coote, who was sacked after visiting a terminally ill resident two days before he died. The company says she was in breach of their vulnerable adults policy visiting him out of her working hours.

Mrs Coote, 55, has worked for Home Housing Group for 14 years and lives on-site at Prospect Place, in Lingdale, with husband Colin.

After years of service, during which she used her own holidays to take residents on trips and spent evenings accompanying them on meals and theatre visits, she is fighting to keep the job she loves.

She has been given just two weeks to leave the home where she has a Home Housing Group employee tenancy.

Devastated Mrs Coote said: “It was a job I absolutely loved for 14 years. I have lost my job and we have lost our home. It’s taken me weeks to stop crying.

“Nobody can believe what’s happened.”

The company cited failure to comply with the protection of vulnerable adults policy and procedure. As a separate issue, the company says Mrs Coote failed to correctly follow and document health and safety procedures. She admitted that, although she carried out the regular safety checks on doors and fire extinguishers, she failed to log them correctly.

Mrs Coote revealed the sacking relates to a visit she made out of working hours to a 60-year-old resident in the final stages of Motor Neurone Disease. He died just two days after her visit.

Mrs Coote says she was told the policy, to protect workers and vulnerable adults, meant she should not have dealt with the man’s care out of working hours. She claimed she was also told nobody from Home Housing knew where she was, should anything have gone wrong.

“I was told I was not supposed to deal with tenants’ problems after 4.30pm,” she said. “After that they have a cord they can pull to alert a company called Careline.

“But if someone knocks on my door and asks me for my help I am not going to turn them away.”

Mrs Coote says the man’s private carer, Nichola Theaker, knocked on her door and asked her to visit him.

“He had no family and I was friendly with him and had supported him in the past, so there was no way I would have said no,” she said.

“He wanted his mouth swabbing, but he was having difficulty communicating. Visiting him was more a neighbourly duty than part of my job and I have never asked for any overtime in relation to anything I’ve done outside my normal hours.”

Mrs Coote said “after 14 years’ experience” she did not believe she was putting herself or the man at risk. “My husband knew where I was and I must have been away from our house for 15 minutes at the most.”

The man’s carer, who works with an agency, was also present when Mrs Coote attended the house.

Carer Nichola Theaker said: “When I got to the man’s house he was really upset and at that stage he couldn’t talk and struggled with using his computer. He found it very difficult to communicate but he was asking me to go and get Linda.

“I also thought the only person I could turn to was Linda because she was the manager at the place.

“I thought that because she was the manager, she was available anytime.

“I didn’t realise she’d get into this much trouble. The gentleman who I was caring for would have been devastated.”

Mrs Coote’s husband Colin, 57, a coach driver who regularly took the residents away on holiday with Linda, said: “After 14 years unblemished service, you would maybe expect a warning, but the company have classed this as gross misconduct.”

The residents of Prospect Place set up a petition to keep Linda in her job, which Linda claims was signed by 39 out of 41 residents. But an appeal hearing upheld the decision to sack Linda, and she is now taking the company to a tribunal.

Jean Harrison, a 65-year-old resident on the site, said: “Since Linda was sacked, we only have support for two-and-a-half hours every day.

“Every time we went to Linda, she was so helpful, and we won’t get another manager like her. We just wish we could have her back. She put herself out for a lot of people.”

A spokeswoman for Home Housing Group said: “We will not be able to offer any comment due to the ongoing arbitration process.”

A voice for the vulnerable

LINDA Coote has stuck up for the welfare of elderly residents at Prospect Place over the past decade.

In 1999 she told the Gazette how she was sickened by the actions of burglars who targeted Prospect Place for the fifth time. They had stolen video equipment belonging to the pensioners.

“These thieves are sick cowards targeting vulnerable old people,” she said.

Then in January 2003 she spoke out over the state of the unadopted road leading to Prospect Place.

The road had become icy and a resident had fallen, breaking a leg. Mrs Coote was involved in a long campaign asking for the council to grit and improve the road and wrote to Ashok Kumar MP for help.

In May 2005 Mrs Coote hit out after a distraction burglar stole cash from a pensioner and in May last year she said residents had been targeted by criminals who stole garden ornaments plants and trees.