Charities and consumers’ watchdog urge probe into care homes market

The Consumers’ Association and a coalition of 28 charities have
complained to the Office of Fair Trading about the “dysfunctional”
care home market.

Represented by the umbrella organisation Social Policy Ageing
Information Network (Spain), they are urging further investigation
into the sector.

After a detailed analysis, the Consumers’ Association concluded
that the care home market was “dysfunctional”. In its submission to
the OFT, two areas are highlighted: the often insufficient fees
paid by public authorities to private companies and charities, and
the expectation that local authority residents and their relatives
will top up “inadequate” local authority fees.

Insufficient council fees can also lead to private residents being
charged more than local authority residents to make up the

Les Bright, chairperson of Spain, said: “We all expect to exercise
choice as to how we live our lives, but older people are routinely
denied choice in the care home market. This is a major opportunity
for the OFT to undertake a major investigation to make this market

The Consumers’ Association and Spain also said there was a lack of
accessible and reliable information on care homes.

Meanwhile, Age Concern Scotland has revealed that many older people
are being disadvantaged by the system set up in 2001 to provide
free personal and nursing care in Scotland.

The charity said many care homes were refusing to accept older
people who had funding from the local authority for free care and
were able to pay the cost of accommodation themselves but had asked
the local authority to manage the contract on their behalf.

If a care home accepted a self-funder under such an “integrated
contract”, it would be obliged to agree to the local
authority-negotiated fee level used for council-funded

But, as care homes could charge self-funders who arranged their own
contract higher fees, they were less likely to accept those with
“integrated contracts”, the charity said.

The Scottish executive said little could be done as independent
providers could not be forced to accept the “integrated contracts”.

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