Fears Over Rising Cost Of Private Care

The closure of private care homes in Conwy could lead to more competition for places in neighbouring Denbighshire, it has been claimed.

And that, along with difficulties in filling staff vacancies, rising costs and pressure on the county council budget is said to be leading to a serious situation.

In a report to Denbighshire’s social services and housing scrutiny committee the county’s commissioning and contracting manager Ann Hughes-Jones outlined concerns.

She said with more homes asking for higher fees than those set by the council the choice of accommodation is putting pressure on the department’s budget.

The fees paid by the council for residential and nursing are agreed following negotiations with the private sector, including the Care Forum Wales, and are currently comparable with those of other authorities.

But a recent arbitration in the Vale of Glamorgan resulted in fees of more than £100 a week above those paid by Denbighshire, and it is feared other homes will now go to arbitration.

Ms Hughes-Jones said even a £15 a week increase, as recommended by the Care Forum Wales, would cost the council £600,000 above inflation.

“Should any of the homes in Denbighshire choose to go to arbitration or take court action the cost would be determined by the arbitrator or could and could amount to a great deal more,” she said.

The report revealed that while demand for places has fallen that move is expected to be only temporary.

“In the meantime, several homes have recently closed in Conwy following periods of low occupation rates,” ponted out the report.

“If the predictions about increased need in the future are correct then Conwy is likely to be making demands on Denbighshire homes in due course, to compensate for its own reduced numbers of homes.”

Ms Hughes-Jones said the national minimum wage has put up the cost per resident by about £25 a week, but fees paid by the authority went up only £5 above inflation.

“Residential providers are finding it harder to fill vacancies and are regularly employing immigrants to care worker roles,” claimed the report.

“To some extent this is blamed on the fact that the national minimum wage has made working in other fields more attractive than it once was, the same money being available for less stressful and demanding jobs.

“In some homes this is starting to have an impact on the quality of the communication with the residents.”

A council spokesman said the issue of fair fees was one facing every authority and the annual increases above the rate of inflation had been largely welcomed by the residential and nursing sector.

“Denbighshire has a good relationship with its home owners and representatives and social services will continue to work with representatives of the sector to negotiate fee levels, and will work with neighbouring authorities to develop a method of calculating fair fees,” he said.