Watchdog urges families to report care home woes

The Times reported in December, 2016

The Competition and Markets Authority said it also wanted to hear from anyone who felt that their complaints had not been handled fairly.

Andrea Coscelli, acting chief executive of the CMA, said: “Choosing a care home can be emotional and costly. It’s therefore essential that elderly people and their families have all the information they need to make the best possible choice, and then feel secure in the knowledge they will be fairly treated throughout their time there. We are undertaking a thorough review of the sector to make sure it works in the best interests of those who rely on it.”

The watchdog said it had decided to start an investigation after receiving complaints from care home residents who felt they had encountered unfair terms or practices.

The study will examine the effectiveness of competition between homes in driving quality and value for money for residents and taxpayers. It will also consider how local authorities and other public bodies purchase and assign places in homes, and how they encourage and shape local supply.

Last month, The Times revealed how middle-class families were paying a “stealth tax” of £10,000 a year for places in care homes for elderly relatives.

A detailed analysis of fees found that the extra charge was being used to subsidise residents who could not pay themselves and had to rely on council funding.

About 430,000 older people are in care and nursing homes, with almost half paying for themselves, either by running down their savings or selling the family home. Individuals must “self- fund” if they have assets totalling more than £23,000.

The average weekly bill for this growing group of people is between £603 and £867, depending on the area, although in the southeast fees often run to more than £1,000 a week.

Research by Citizens Advice found that one in five people with family in a care home had been hit by an unexpected bill.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People often have little choice but to pay these costs because moving the resident to another care home is simply too disruptive or distressing. In some instances relatives don’t make a complaint to the company because they worry that the resident could be treated badly.”

A senior figure at the Department of Health welcomed the CMA investigation. The source said: “One thing that is clear from the social care sector is that there is a wide variability in outcome and standards. Some places that are not demographically or financially advantaged do very well while other better-off areas do less well.

“If this process highlights areas that are good and some that need to get better then that is in the interests of residents and the NHS.”
People can email their experiences to carehomes@cma.gsi.gov.uk.

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The Care Co-Operative’s view is:

“Any one with more that £23,250, including their home, who needs care, in a care home or in their own home, is called a 'self-funder'. Self-funders are often inexperienced at finding and funding care and they are having to do everything for themselves, so they often don't realise they are a valuable commodity to care providers. 

“At the Care Co-operative we are looking to re-balance the system by asking 
self-funders to sign up with us in numbers to boost their purchasing power. We are asking care providers to recognise the value of self-funders to their business by also signing up and offering a discount to members of the Care Co-Operative. 
“The website launches next week. Please sign up - even if you don't need care for you or your family now, you may in the future!”