A group campaigning for councils to meet the full costs of care in fees paid to adult providers is set to seek a judicial review against all English local authorities.
The Fairer Fee Forum said that it would be lodging papers once it had got “all providers together”, but this could be in as little as three months time.
It has been collecting data from providers over the past few months, but said the majority of local councils had so far failed to increase fees to account for rising utility and labour costs.
Decision taken on judicial review
Kashif Majeed, of specialist community care solicitors Aston Brooke, which set up the FFF to put pressure on local councils for higher payments, said: “We’ve got a conference coming up with Cherie Booth [QC – the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair], but we’ve come to the decision that we will be proceeding now [with a judicial review].”
This comes with more than 100 providers expected to attend a mass meeting on fees this afternoon in New Earswick, York.
Organised by the Independent Care Group – an association of independent providers in York and North Yorkshire – it is being held amid warnings about the future of the independent care sector in the area. The group had called for a 6.75% increase in fee rates for this financial year to cover costs but had been offered just 1% by North Yorkshire Council, which it termed “a slap in the face”.
Providers ‘feeling the squeeze’
Chair Mike Padgham warned that many providers were feeling the squeeze and feared there could be more closures of businesses.
Padgham, who is also chair of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said that many businesses had survived by reining in staff costs – either cutting terms and conditions or reducing employee numbers to the statutory minimum.
He said: “The likely outcome is a lack of investment in care homes and home care services, the complete closure of some businesses and a fall in the number of new providers setting up.
“The people most likely to suffer in the middle of this situation are the older and vulnerable residents that we are all working to provide comfort, dignity and care for.”
Councils ‘choosing not to fund’
He argued local authorities had the resources, but many chose to put the funds into other areas.
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%.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has argued in the past that below-inflationary rises reflected the fact that some councils had paid historically high rates for care.