Care homes may be forced to pay compensation if they continue to charge fees for a resident who has died, in some cases for up to four weeks.
Following an extensive review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which has published its report into the care home sector and whether it is working well for older people and their families.
It has pledged to carry out a consultation into new guidance on fees charged after death and wants all care homes to start reviewing their practices now in the light of the CMA’s findings, and where necessary make changes. ‘If we continue to find non-compliance, homes risk enforcement action’, said the report.
Fees are charged even when the room has been cleared of a resident’s belongings and in some cases when the room is already occupied by a new resident. However, if the resident is funded by the local authority, the financial contract with the care home stops immediately or up to four days after the death. The year-long market study also found the current care system is unsustainable without additional funding.
‘Substantial reform’ is needed
CMA’s chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, acknowledged that: “Care homes provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. However, the simple truth is that the system cannot continue to provide the essential care people need with the current levels of funding.
“Without substantial reform to the way that councils plan and commission care, and greater confidence that the costs of providing care will be covered, the UK also won’t be able to meet the growing needs of its ageing population.”
There is a funding shortfall of £1bn a year due to councils not paying enough for local authority funded residents. This shortfall leaves care homes in a desperate situation.
In addition, there needs to be an independent body to produce better long-term planning and oversight. For sufficient new care homes to be built, planning and commissioning by councils must improve to give investors greater confidence in the funding environment, said the competition watchdog.
Scotland and Wales have already taken steps in this direction but England and Northern Ireland have nothing in place.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England hopes the study will “give the impetus to the Government to recognise the importance of fair funding and proportionate regulation”.
He added that he hopes the independent body which would also oversee fees, will “have teeth and the authority to compel Local Authorities to pay given that the Market Shaping duties have clearly failed. If the market continues without a considerable funding injection or better commissioning practice, the closure of care home providers will limit choice and competition”.
The CMA’s report also called for better protection for people in care homes with an improvement in the systems for redress and feedback.
Care homes will be required to be more transparent in terms of their fees and to display them on their websites.
Farooq Patel, director at Wellbeing Care Ltd who manage three diverse care services in Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk said: “The care sector is need of urgent reform and the CMA’s report substantiates the need for a review to ensure appropriate care is underpinned by realistic funding from the government. At The Dell Care Home in Lowestoft it is our policy not to charge any fees after the room has been cleared of resident’s belongings”. He added “it is shameful that some care providers charge grieving family fees when the room has been cleared of a resident’s belongings or when the room is already occupied by a new resident”.
The expected Green Paper next year should address the systemic problems described in the CMA report if it is to provide a substantial solution to the social care crisis. We hope the Government acts on these recommendations in the short term too and urgently addresses the widening funding gap that results in many older people being denied the care they so desperately need.”
The report by the CMA can be found here
Wellbeing Care owns The Dell Care Home in Lowestoft which high quality, dignified residential and dementia care in premium accommodation. It is recommended by families as one of the “One of the Top 3 Care Homes in Waveney area” .
Wellbeing Care also manage The Wellbeing Day Centre which offers premium day care service to over 65 years who may have daily care needs, physical disabilities or health issues. Wellbeing Day Centre have skilled carers on hand to ensure that each individual’s health and wellbeing are protected and that any specific care concerns are incorporated to tailor the day time activities for them. Further details can be found www.wellbeingcare.co.uk/day-care/