OPINION – Whilst acting as a deputy for a local authority, I was “asked” to sign contracts and then pay an administration fee to care homes for clients I acted for. I always refused. It was my belief, at the time, that this was an illegal practice and that care homes had no right in asking for a payment up front.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have been investigating Care Homes and produced detailed advice for care homes about their obligations under consumer law.

On the 6th December the Competition and Markets Authority announced that one of the largest care providers in the UK, Care UK, would face legal action unless it refunded monies back to some 1600 residents who had been charged a fee of up to £3,000.00.

Care UK have responded by rejecting this claim, stating that they “..do not believe there is any evidence whatsoever to suggest residents have been disadvantaged or that our historic fee structures were in breach of consumer law“. There is no doubt that the case will go to Court for a decision.

The CMA have also written to other care providers who undertake the practice of applying an administration fee.

I thought it highly unfair that the resident be expected to pay this fee whilst a state funded resident in the same home would not, therefore I would refuse to pay as it was clearly not in their best interests. I know that other Deputies in both the Public and Private sector would refuse to pay.

No doubt this will result in court action and we will get a decision in due course. If the court rules against care homes, how many of those residents affected will be left to benefit from the decision? If their savings have depleted will the monies go to Local Authorities who have picked up the funding? What happens if the resident has passed away with no one managing their estate?

With the imminent publication of the Social Care Green paper in England, will this make the practice of applying admin fees illegal or will it leave it open to interpretation?

Personally I’m glad that the CMA have taken this action and I hope that the opportunity to, once and for all, clarify fees is finally taken so that future generations entering care know what to expect. Sadly I’m fairly pessimistic that the Green Paper will do anything to answer the needs of Social Care in England and Wales. It is a golden opportunity that, I fear, Government will be too scared to take.

Dave Lockwood.