Care home owners demand back pay from council
Caring Times latest – 4th June, 2013
Care home owners in Birmingham are demanding back payments on fees for their services after a new city council-commissioned report highlighted they were being short-changed by more than £260 a month.
Senior council officers are now facing a call from more than 130 private sector operators in the region to hold an emergency cabinet meeting to thrash out the discrepancies. The draft report, carried out by accountants and research analysts KPMG, has bought to a head a long-standing disagreement between the council and care operators over the “real cost of care.”
The report, based on the Open Book Accounting initiative supported by WMCA, involved care providers disclosing their accounts to KPMG so that costs for private sector care could be established by an independent body. Care home owners have long argued that bed fees for council-funded clients are not enough and say the KPMG report backs their argument.
The report gives the averaged prices currently paid weekly by council commissioners for a residential package as £381.64 and £532.17 for nursing care, but care home providers say the basic rate most homes receive is less and want the council to pay weekly fees of £414.32 for residential and £597.37 for nursing – the mean figures identified in the report for the provision of a bed and essential care only.
The care providers say revised payments under these terms would not fund business reinvestments or returns to home-owners, add the care providers, but would allow them to continue to provide quality care until a “fair” cost is agreed.
Adam Barwell, chairman of the Birmingham West Midlands Care Association (WMCA), the body which helps negotiate local authority fees and represents most of the city’s private care providers, said fees had been pegged for the past three years with the council pursuing a controversial “micro-tendering” option where case studies were posted online and care providers submitted a fee for the contract. Commissioners would then choose their favoured option.
“The implications here are deeply worrying and the findings of the council’s own report identify the real costs of caring,” said Mr Barwell.
“Some 90% of homes in Birmingham are paid £367.18 per week for a bed and on those figures we have no margins for growth or returns on investment capital. We can cover only basic care and ultimately, if things don’t improve, care will be compromised.”
Mr Barwell, who runs Magna Care Group Ltd with homes in Moseley, Kings Norton, Bournville and Wythall, asked how care providers would be able to continue to deliver the minimum legal requirements of care when there was not enough money to fund it.
“We need a fair rate of payment,” he said. “We asked the council to call an emergency cabinet meeting to make funds available when we met with assistant director of operational commissioning, Elizabeth Ross. We were told it was the intention to take the report to cabinet in September, but we need action immediately and the monies backdated to April 2012.”
WMCA chief executive Debbie Le Quesne said private funders in care settings were effectively having to subsidise those people funded by the local authority. “Our members are in a juggling act with income and are only able to meet the legally required duty of care standards because of money paid to them by private funders,” said Ms Le Quesne. “What happens in Birmingham will be critical to the region and beyond as every local authority and care association is watching to see the final outcome of this particular analysis.“