It's time to come clean over care home fees

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
Date: Friday 24th February 2012
Embargo: 00.01hrs, Monday 27th February 2012

Directors of adult social services have rejected criticisms that they are forcing up fees to non-council funded residents, despite agreeing with parts of todays Age UK survey on residential care fee levels* which show that insufficient funds are available within the health and social care system.

According to ADASS President Peter Hay "We have repeatedly warned of an undeniable funding gap between the demographically-inspired rise in the costs of social care and the money available within the local authority pot to pay for it. We have also consistently called for a radically new settlement which brings in additional funding while allowing social care to concentrate more firmly on preventative and enabling services."

These issues are currently the subject of continuing cross government discussions.

Mr Hay, however, warned that Age UK and care home owners should distinguish between the problems caused by the overall shortfalls in the volume of resources, and the way in which those scarce resources are spent. He said: it is far, far too simplistic to argue as some do that private home owners are charging non-council funded residents more because local authorities are refusing to pay reasonable fees.

He stressed that social care directors use public money well in order to obtain best prices - and that's in everyone's interest including self-funders by using their larger purchasing power to get prices linked to volume. If we didn't we would face claims that we were wasting public money! It seems to me this is evidence that we have a market in care and that its working  - like markets do!, he said.

In that respect their current bulk purchasing arrangements mean that care providers might negotiate different contracts with local authorities from the ones they negotiate with self funders. But there is no evidence that care providers, forced to make penny-pinching savings on their local authority contracts, are then compensating for the losses by over-charging individual self-funding residents and their families.

>He went on to draw parallels between the Age UK research and the long Southern Cross saga which recently saw the transfer of the ownership a large number of care homes to other operators. What the public need most whether they be council tax payers, council-funded residents of care homes or self-funders is openness, transparency and clarity, he said.

By all means let us have a debate about prices. But for the sake of transparency and clarity let us also have a debate about costs: and yes, about acceptable levels of profit too. ADASS members and their commissioning colleagues are more than happy to meet with local care providers to discuss ways in which each can help the other to keep costs down, quality up, and to maintain fees as fairly and squarely as we can.

We are desperately concerned that there are growing numbers of self funders facing a cliff edge means test on the one hand, and the £23,000 upper limit on savings including property. This is seriously unfair and is a big part of Dilnot reforms. There is also a great deal of distressed and ill informed purchasing within the self-funding market, and we want to see better information available to them and their carers.

The rapidly spreading policy of personalisation means that all care providers are going to have to learn to deal with new purchasers coming to the table with new demands, new ways of looking at the issues involved, and new ways of securing the funding to pay for their care. Adult social care services will be there to help both sides purchaser and provider get the best quality services and the best value for money that can be found.

ENDS

For further information contact:
Peter Hay, ADASS President, 0121 303 2992
Drew Clode, ADASS Policy/Press Adviser, 0208 348 5023/07976 837755

* New Research Shows Soaring Care Home Fees for Self Funding Residents, Age UK, February 2012

Editorial Notes

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) represents directors of adult social services in local authorities in England. DASSs have statutory responsibilities for the social care of older people and adults with disabilities, while over 50 per cent also run social housing departments. ADASS members might also share a number of responsibilities for the provision and/or commissioning of housing, leisure, library, culture and arts services within their councils.

`Personalisation' is a term used to describe a number of ways in which vulnerable adults and their carers can receive a mixture of local authority and government money in order to pay directly for the care services they need without direct social services involvement.

They will be helped in making an assessment of their needs and finances by social workers who will also involve and consider the needs and availability of carers. Any contractual agreement is therefore between the individual and the care worker or operator.

The government has urged local authorities to prioritise the roll-out of individual budgets. A National Director for Social Care Transformation was appointed in September 2008 to contribute to the development of personalised services.