Wirral Council fee cut sparks row with residential care homes

Wirral Council has been accused of putting vulnerable older people at risk after pressing ahead with plans to cut the fees it pays to voluntary and independent sector care homes by 1.3%.

The Registered Nursing Home Association said that the council was using “bully boy” tactics  in order to drive the proposals through. The 1.3% reduction in care home fees, which have been backdated to 1 April, have received the backing of the full council and have been ratified by the scrutiny committee.

RNHA claims that the cut equates to a reduction of between £23 and £28 for every care home resident per week over the next year. It has been estimated that the loss of income for a typical 30-bed care home would be between £690 and £840 per week.

RNHA said that care homes had been given just two weeks in which to decide to accept the cut or else be threatened with the termination of their contract as part of a “draconian sanction”. The council has confirmed that no further negotiations would be taking place over the issue.

Chief executive officer Frank Ursell accused the local authority of being out of touch with the realities of providing care for vulnerable older people.

He said: “To take this money out of the budget for elderly care in this way is bound to have a negative impact on the quality of services provided, no matter how hard local care home owners and managers try to compensate for the enormous hole that the council has blown in their finances.”

Ursell also warned that the cuts could lead to a rise in the fees paid by private care home residents who are not funded by the local authority.

A council spokesperson said the original proposal had been for a 5% cut and said that new contracts were proposed because of the dramatic reduction of the retail price index over recent months.

He added: “This has been in negotiation for the past six months or so. The measures will be taken within the next couple of weeks.”

Independent care providers are being put under increasing financial pressure as councils across the country slash their fees. The Fairer Fee Forum, set up by specialist community care solicitors firm Ashton Brooke earlier this month, is gathering evidence from providers on fee levels and the costs of care around the country in order to lobby councils.

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