Government response to CMA care home market study is short on detail, says Care England

Posted on March 8th, by geoff in Caring Times. Comments Off on Government response to CMA care home market study is short on detail, says Care England

Three months after it was published, the Government has now responded to the Competition & Markets Authority report on the care homes market, accepting only “in principle” the CMA’s recommendations to address market sustainability.

Provider representative body Care England says much of the Government’s response pushes the actual plan and any action on sustainability and capacity of provision into the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper.

“As such we are no further forward on issues relating to funding and market confidence in meeting the care needs of vulnerable people across England,” said Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green.

“The Government notes that it ‘would expect to see an increase in the fee levels paid to providers over the remainder of the Spending Review’ but this makes absolutely no commitment to ensure that those increases (if they happen at all) should be enough to cover care cost increases and sustain the market. The CMA referred explicitly to care homes, where more than 75% of their residents are local authority funded, that LA fees are currently on average as much as 10% below total cost for these homes. It cannot be right that the Government response simply ignores this.”

Close on the heels of the Government’s response to the CMA Report, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that local authorities were struggling to juggle higher demands and cost pressures against significant central government funding cuts of nearly 50% since 2010-11.

Many local authorities were relying on using their savings to fund local services and were overspending on services. The NAO report says that if local authorities with social care responsibilities keep using their reserves at current rates, one in ten could have exhausted them within three years. Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said current funding for local authorities was characterised by one off and short-term fixes, many of which came with centrally driven conditions

“This restricts the capacity of local authorities and yet the weight of responsibility to respond to increased demand and maintain services remains very much on their shoulders,” said Sir Amyas.

“The Government risks sleep walking into a centralised local authority financial system where the scope for local discretion is being slowly eroded.”

In its criticism of the Government’s response to the CMA report on care homes, Care England’s Martin Green said the Government’s acceptance of the CMA’s analysis that there needs to be investor confidence across the adult social care market was not the same as taking the action necessary to fund adult social care services properly.

“The adult social care funding gap has been well documented by local government leaders and yet the Government still maintains that the additional £2bn over three years is sufficient,” said Prof. Green.

“In the meantime care homes continue to close and contracts are being handed back. If the Government cannot address the current crisis in social care then the Green Paper will have little relevance.”

On the recommendations on consumer protection in the CMA Report, which the Government explicitly accepts in its response, Care England said that, while it welcomed moves for greater transparency, the Government must ensure that this provided meaningful information for people and families and that it works in partnership with providers on this agenda; for example possible model contract clauses.

“We do not believe that an accreditation scheme will do anything other than add administrative burden without seeing benefits for people,” said Prof. Green.

“The Government needs to work more closely with this sector to see the changes without imposing a complex process around accreditation.

“People funded by local authorities, and indeed CCGs, should also have consumer protections. Local authority contracts seem to be ignored in plans for the future. How do local authority contracts meet the same consumer protection needs as those to be promoted for self funders? There is too much within this response on which the Government stays silent.”

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