JRF research reveals extra cash level needed for top quality care

£540m price tag for ‘top quality’ care home sector


English councils would have to find an extra £540m a year to ensure all state-funded residential care for older people is of the highest quality, according to research this week for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The study, by community care analyst William Laing, of Laing & Buisson, found that a significant number of care homes for older people are still being under-funded in comparison with national benchmarks for high-quality residential care.

The £540m excludes the staffing costs of creating a “fully modernised” care sector. Laing said that if this were to include an extra £1 an hour for non-qualified carers and domestic and catering staff, a further £280m would be added to the bill.

The report, however, noted that some councils were paying too much for sub-standard residential care. Laing revised his 2004 formula for calculating how much councils should pay based on the quality of the care home. The “fair market fee” evaluation compared care home running costs against how far they met national minimum quality standards to identify a floor and ceiling rate.

Only if a home was meeting physical environment standards for new homes, under the national minimum standards, and has a service rated as “good” or “excellent” by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, should it warrant the highest fees, the report stated.

The difference between best and worst quality equated to £74-76 a week, under Laing’s model. For instance, a nursing home outside London would have a ceiling rate of £665 a week and a floor rate of £589 a week.

Laing said: “If a ‘fair market fee’ were introduced, older people who rely on state funding would have access to better quality facilities and relatives or charities would no longer have to make top-up payments to keep elderly residents in their chosen care homes.”

A recent Laing & Buisson study found councils were increasingly linking fees for homes to quality criteria but said there were concerns among providers that the practice was being employed to cut costs, a charge denied by adult care directors (www.communitycare.co.uk/108906).

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