Staffordshire County Council was faced with a legal challenge at the High Court by the Fairer Fee Forum (FFF) who were representing 200 care providers within the local authority’s jurisdiction. However, after a dramatic turn of events, Staffordshire County Council agreed with the FFF to carry out a fresh review of setting their standard rates of fees for care homes so as to avoid a full blown legal challenge at the High Court. More importantly, the agreement between both parties resulted in a more beneficial outcome than any court ruling for the FFF and its members. The agreement means a fresh decision on care home fees will be undertaken coupled with an independent review of the process to ensure that Staffordshire County Council has complied with all their duties.
Staffordshire County Council agreed to carry out a fair, transparent and comprehensive review of the usual costs of providing care home care locally, and of any other factors, including local factors, relevant to the usual costs of providing care home care locally, so as to determine the level at which it ought to set its standard rates for care home provision. It also confirmed that this would relate to setting 2012/13 fees and also incorporate a fresh decision on 2011/12 fees.
The FFF was represented by directors Raman Purewal and Kashif Majeed of Aston Brooke Solicitors. In recent years, Aston Brooke has been recognised as a market leader in representing the concerns of the social care sector. In December 2010, the High Court ruled the interim cap on immigration unlawful after a judicial review lodged by Aston Brooke on behalf of their client the English Community Care Association (ECCA).
Welcoming the decision agreed with Staffordshire County Council, Mr Purewal said:
“We recognised that no local authority was taking account of the true cost of care and this practice had gone on for too long. I welcome Staffordshire County Councils decision not to proceed with litigation and agree with the FFF to make a fresh decision on fees for care homes which has more importantly, ensured that our client was able to secure a wider scope than just a review of care home fees. We were able to secure an independent review of the council’s review process for standard rate fees . We also avoided the unnecessary financial costs of a judicial review and burden on the public purse”.
Martin Green is the Chair of the FFF and he made his position clear:
“I have previously stated that we have tried to positively engage local authorities and to educate health commissioners, but these efforts have never borne fruit. The bottom line is that the only way to move a PCT or a local authority these days is through the real threat of legal action or litigation and this has been proven today.”
Mr Green is also the Chief Executive of ECCA, the largest representative body for residential care in England. Its members are made up of small, medium and large providers and cross the commercial and charitable sector. The Association’s members run and manage over 5,000 care services which support more than 500,000 vulnerable people, including older people and people with learning and physical disabilities, and mental health needs.
The FFF is currently representing other care providers across England in their campaign to achieve the true cost of care. Mr Green confirmed that there were other cases which had either reached the permission stage of judicial review proceedings or were at the initial stages of a legal challenge such as was the case in Staffordshire. Mr Green urged other care providers who were faced with a freeze or reduction in care home fees to come forward and make their case.