Care fees victory still insufficient, warn providers
LOCAL authorities across Wales have been accused of failing to meet legal obligations to pay for private care home places.
In December Pembrokeshire Council was ordered to re-evaluate the amount it pays to all its care homes after a High Court judge ruled its methods used to arrive at the fee were unlawful. And now Care Forum Wales (CFW), the body which represents more than 550 independent care service providers, has said many other councils are still not paying enough to homes to enable adequate care to elderly and vulnerable people. The owners of four care homes in Pembrokeshire – Pencoed, Langton Hall, Woodfield and Woodland Lodge care homes – successfully fought a judicial review after proving the council’s methodology for calculating the weekly amount payable per resident was flawed. Click here to find out more! The High Court subsequently told the authority to review its fees, forcing a raise from £390 a week per resident to £448. Yet Barry Latham, policy advisor for Care Forum Wales, said: “We have, for many years now, asked local authorities to take account of care homes legitimate costs when setting fee levels rather than making arbitrary decisions on the amount they are prepared to pay. “When local authorities set their fees at a level which underfunds the true cost of care homes, they have to find additional income in order to remain viable and to meet the needs of their residents. “We believe that this is grossly unfair and that the fee paid by the council should be sufficient to meet the full cost of meeting their relatives’ assessed needs.” Pembrokeshire Council leader, John Davies, has said the High Court judgement cost the authority an extra £1.5m this year. He said: “This will inevitably result in a significant challenge to the council in ensuring that it continues to meet its statutory obligations to vulnerable individuals who have been assessed as requiring support.” Prior to the review the authority paid higher care home fees than several local authorities in Wales while now only four other authorities pay more. Mike Davies, a director of the four homes, said while the increased fee was a positive step forward it was still not enough to secure care homes long term. “We now have to analyse our current situation, for example, fuel and food costs have gone up considerably,” he said. “I have spoken with other providers who worked closely with the legal team and none of us is flying the flag and saying this is a fantastic result in terms of keeping our homes going for the medium to long term. “We are having to look to the future and ask, is this enough to make sure companies are safe? “The figure of £450 a week was the figure the banks said homes needed to operate at break even back in April last year, and we thought the figure was nearer to £480 a week.” An Assembly Government spokesman said it was studying the Pembrokeshire judgement for general lessons. “In law, it is the responsibility of each local authority to set the fees they pay to providers for care home placements locally. The Assembly Government has no remit or powers in that. The High Court judgement stressed that councils must have a rationale underpinning their approach to fee setting and that they should work in partnership with the NHS and service providers to commission an appropriate range of services,” he added. “These matters are addressed in the statutory guidance on commissioning of social services published by the Assembly Government last summer. We are supporting local authorities and providers to implement this through a development programme.”