Campaign grows to set 'realistic' care home fees in Devon
Care homes are set to close in Devon despite councillors finding an extra £1.65 million to correct a "flawed" fee system.
Torbay Council and Devon County Council continue to face well-orchestrated campaigns and legal action by a group of owners in the county who say local authorities are employing an "Alice in Wonderland" approach to setting their weekly charges.
Campaigners argue payments need to rise considerably to avoid large-scale closures which could leave hundreds of elderly residents facing major upset and upheaval as they are forced to move.
Torbay council agreed at a budget meeting on Wednesday evening to find an additional £786,000 this year and £868,000 next year for the 108 homes it oversees, following a review demanded by campaigners.
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The council's care spokesman for social care said its new structure, reduced from 18 separate bands down to four, was done "fairly" after an extensive round of public consultations.
Devon County Council has this week heard that its application to appeal against a High Court ruling ordering changes in the way it calculates and sets fees has been refused.
The Torbay officers' report to full council this week said the growing trend for independent care at home meant there is an "oversupply" of residential care and accepts some owners "may need to exit from the market".
Councillors approved the new fees, which will pay a maximum of £555 per week for nursing care and £409 for residential care.
Despite the review, Alan Beale, managing director of South West Care Homes and a spokesman for the Devon Quality Care Forum (DCQF), said the authority was "in denial" about the true cost of care.
Mr Beale said the council calculations continued to keep its own fees low by factoring in higher costs for privately-funded residents.
"They are dictating how much we should overcharge our private payers – for nursing care this can be as much as £200 per week," he added.
"They have a bizarre Alice-in-Wonderland approach to what something costs – they say you have to screw your private fee payers but people are not stupid and can see that the resident across the corridor is paying less but getting the same care."
A report drawn up for approval on Wednesday admitted the process to set fees last March was "flawed".
It said projections indicate that the number of care beds purchased over the next three years is likely to continue to fall by 4% per annum on average.
"Consequently there is the risk that the market may need to re-balance, as efficient markets should do, and as a result some home owners may need to exit from the market," it said.
Torbay council's Executive Lead for Adult Social Care, Christine Scouler, said private businesses were free to set rates and "were not being forced into anything".
"They can either charge the standard rate that Torquay comes up with or if they have a room overlooking the sea or one that's a bit bigger they can charge more," she added.
"We don't know the financial details of any care home, whether they owe the bank a lot of money or need a certain amount of patients to pay their way.
"This was done on a fair basis with consultation."