Independent care providers are being urged to back a campaign to raise council fees which could spark the first judicial review against all English local authorities.
The Fairer Fee Forum (FFF) has been established to put pressure on councils to ensure fees meet the costs of providing adult care services, amid longstanding claims from providers and independent evidence that they fall well short.
Martin Green to chair forum
FFF is also designed to help providers challenge fee levels without identifying themselves and jeopardising relations with councils. The forum is currently setting up a governing board, which will be chaired by English Community Care Association chief executive Martin Green.
Specialist community care solicitors firm Ashton Brooke, which established FFF, is currently gathering evidence from providers on fee levels and the costs of care around the country, and is planning to write to all 152 councils with its findings.
Unprecedented judicial review
Should authorities not respond by raising fees, FFF will lodge what it says would be the first judicial review against all councils with social services responsibilities in the country.
However, Ashton Brooke principal solicitor Kashif Majeed challenged providers to “make the effort” to support the campaign and provide evidence, if they wanted to it to succeed.
He said: “If we don’t stand side by side it’s not going to work. Everyone wants more money but they are not prepared to do the hard work.”
ECCA: Fee rises not matching inflation
Independent care provider bodies, notably the English Community Care Association and United Kingdom Homecare Association, have long argued that fee rates have failed to keep pace with the rising costs of care.
A report last year by independent analysts Laing and Buisson found English councils increased fees by 2.7% in 2008-9 for older people’s care homes, against an estimated inflation rate for care home costs of 3%-3.5%.
Rises defended by Adass
However, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services defended last year’s fee rises, arguing that below-inflationary rises reflected the fact that some councils had paid historically high rates for care.
Majeed said FFF would draw on the Laing and Buisson report but also commission new research on fees.
Should it decide to pursue a judicial review, Majeed said FFF would hope to instruct Cherie Booth QC – the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair.