High Court judge orders council to raise care home fees
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A High Court Judgment passed down last week will have profound implications for the funding of care home residents throughout the UK. This is the view of the Abbeyfield Society whose Newcastle branch took Newcastle City Council to Court for not paying a fair rate for the care provided to older people at two of Abbeyfield’s care homes in the city.
Mr Justice Norris said the rate should rise to £450 per resident per week for April 2010 to March 2011 and to £460 for April 2011 to March 2012. The council had originally paid Abbeyfield £436 for both years, in line with a two-year price freeze it initiated in 2010 for publicly-funded care home clients. But, on the eve of proceedings in December 2013, the council agreed it should have paid Abbeyfield £455, from October 2011 to April 2012.
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council said he did not yet know how much the judgement would cost the authority.
The judge accepted Abbeyfield’s case that the council had breached an implied contractual term by not paying the charitable provider the “reasonable cost” for its services at its two homes in the city.
Abbeyfield, which has 81 care homes in the UK in which about 30% of residents are funded by their local authorities, has claimed victory in what it believes is the first judgement of its kind where a court has been prepared to fix a reasonable rate for care rather than tell a local authority to go away and fix a lawful rate.
“We were forced to take a stand because Newcastle wasn’t paying a fair rate for the care we were providing”, said John Kilner, chairman of the Abbeyfield Newcastle Society.
“We are very relieved and pleased at the High Court ruling. Other care home providers up and down the country will be looking to this judgment to ensure that they too can continue to provide the quality of care that elderly people deserve, regardless of their financial circumstances.”
Abbeyfield chief executive Natasha Singarayer said the ruling would have a profound effect on local authority funding of residential care beds throughout the UK.
“The Newcastle Judgment brings the care funding issue into sharp focus,” said Ms Singarayer.
“From now on local authorities will find it much harder to get away with short-funding care beds.
“As a charity, our prime aim isn’t making profit out of care and we are determined to continue charging fair fees. But to remain viable, we have to cover our costs and in recent years too many local authorities up and down the UK have been short-funding the care we provide to older people who don’t have enough money to pay for their own residential care.
“There are 145,000 people in England alone with relatively few assets or on low incomes that have their care home places funded by local authorities so this is a huge issue for older people in the UK, let alone within Abbeyfield. I understand that many local authorities are cash strapped and that this situation is only likely to get worse.
“This is a national scandal and we cannot allow this situation to continue. We all want the best possible care for older people in care homes and that can’t happen without decent funding. As a charity Abbeyfield can take local authorities to court and shout about the problem, but what is really needed here is a realistic approach to this fundamental finance issue by both central and local government.”