A recent study into the quality of care homes which has sparked a much wider legal investigation has been called 'a manifestation of our buckling social care system' by Age UK.
- Study warned that care homes were unlawfully charging upfront fees and ordering families to continue paying long after residents had passed away
- An investigation into the UK care homes sector is now underway, involving local authorities and the government
- This will look at how to implement the study's recommendations around better support for residents and their families.
Some care homes could be breaking the law
In December 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a government department which promotes fair and competitive business in the interest of consumers, began a study into the UK's care homes. This was to examine how well the sector is working for older people and their families.
From the study it emerged that certain care homes were charging families for long periods of time after a resident had died and were also demanding upfront fees.
This goes against consumer law and has opened up a consumer protection case to investigate the care homes sector further.
Investigation to focus on support and protection for residents and their families
The consumer protection case will look into the potential law-breaking revealed in the CMA's study, as well as a number of other serious concerns raised.
The CMA will be speaking to local and national authorities, regulators and the industry across the UK to help to implement these recommendations:
1. Fairer treatment for residents and a better complaints procedure
In addition to investigating upfront fees and being charged after a resident has died, there are other issues around the lack of clear information around care home costs and residents being asked to leave at short notice which the case will focus on.
The CMA is looking to improve the current complaints procedure so people who do have problems can raise their concerns safely.
2. More support when making care decisions
Finding and arranging a care home for an older person can be difficult and stressful. Unsurprisingly, the study showed that people are struggling to find the correct information in order to choose the most suitable care home.
The next phase of the CMA’s investigation will look for ways that people can be more actively supported to make informed choices.
3. Encourage future investment into care homes
Our population is getting older – and this means demand for our care services is going to rise significantly. Older people going into care homes will be frailer and requiring more care, as they will be expected to stay in their own homes for longer.
The CMA will look at how the funding can be in place so that we can meet the needs of the many older people requiring accommodation in a care home.
Questions raised about future of social care
The concerns highlighted by the CMA study are unsurprising and expose a much bigger problem with our current social care system, according to Age UK.
Charity Director Caroline Abrahams emphasised the need for a long term strategy on the back of the report, saying it was a 'manifestation of a social care system that is buckling.'
'The need for a long term strategy for social care is as clear today as it was before the General Election. It is Government's responsibility to act and not to do so would let down the millions of older people and their families for whom care is a daily necessity.'