For more than a year, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
(Cosla) and Scottish Care, which represents some private care homes
in Scotland, have sought a deal over care home fees. Rising costs
have led Scottish Care to lobby for an increase in rates paid by
local authorities for funded places in private care homes.

Scottish Care’s message has been clear: costs have risen, we are at
the whim of local authorities and lots of us will go out of
business. Cosla knows it is not as simple as this and that care
providers are not a homogeneous mass. There is a huge disparity in
the quality of care they provide. The parties Cosla represents – 29
of the 32 local authorities – are separate entities, with different
circumstances, budgets and political priorities. Negotiations have
been frustrating for both sides, but have not been helped by one
party’s use of the press.

“Councils fail to hand over cash for care of the elderly” was the
headline in The Herald (2 August). Two nursing homes in the west of
Scotland were closing because, the article suggested, councils were
failing to stump up the cash for the increased costs in residential
care, a “failure which could push many towards closure”. It turned
out that one of these homes was diversifying into very sheltered
housing while the other was closing because it could not attract
the quality of nursing staff it needed. The newspaper’s leader
column developed the theme with its headline, “Quiet crisis of care
– throwing elderly out of closing homes must stop”, adding: “It
should not, and would not, happen to an elderly dog, yet it is
happening to elderly people with increasing regularity.” Both
stories painted councils rather bleakly, with Jim Proctor from
Scottish Care stating: “What we are talking about here is the
future welfare and security of elderly people.”

But Proctor’s sentiments were rendered feeble when the Sunday
Herald (11 August) found evidence that some private care homes have
increased fees to the extent that the financial benefits of free
personal and nursing care are not being passed on to

Councillor Ronnie McCall, Cosla’s social work spokesperson, said
this was “only one element in a spectrum of appalling behaviour,
whether over fees, free personal care or the issue of contracts,
where the interests and well-being of elderly people are clearly
not a high priority for some private providers”.

The Sunday Herald also says it has evidence that Scottish Care has
written to its members “strongly recommending” they deny their
self-funding residents the option of a local authority contract.
Such contracts can protect self-funders from price hikes and short
eviction notices while allowing them to benefit from council’s
quality assurance.

Shona Main is the Association of Directors of Social Work’s
policy and parliamentary officer.

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