The care homes sector is worth around £15.9 billion a year in the UK, with around 410,000 residents. The report calculates that there are around 5,500 different providers in the UK operating 11,300 care homes for the elderly. Around 95% of their beds are provided by the independent sector (both for-profit and charitable providers). Local Authorities generally commission care services from independent care providers. The CMA estimate that the average cost for a self-funder in 2016 was £846 per week (nearly £44,000 per year), while Local Authorities on average paid £621 per week.
In the main, the CMA’s consumer research found that residents had received good care. The sector performs a vital public service that benefits many people, and is staffed by many dedicated and caring individuals.
However the CMA is also calling for reform of the care home sector so people get the support they need in their old age, and taking action against some homes.
Care England, a representative body for independent providers of adult social care has welcomed the Competition and Markets Authority’s Care Home Market Study (Read the report) as a means of increasing consumer protection, providing better information and boosting the fragile care home sector.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England says:
“The CMA’s yearlong study provides in depth analysis that will, we hope, give the impetus to the Government to recognise the importance of fair funding and proportionate regulation. As monopsony purchasers, the role and influence of Local Authorities on providers market and consumer choice is very significant. We as a sector will examine each recommendation”.
The CMA’s report comes after months of data gathering from the sector. Care England submitted evidence and worked with the CMA. Care England repeatedly made the point that while responsibility lies with care providers to ensure consumer protection in the care homes market, commissioners must also be held responsible for their role and influence over the market. Poor quality commissioning has a negative impact on the entire market, and on the consumer.
Martin Green continued:
“Choice is imperative; however as the report makes clear, choice is not always possible when there is poor commissioning. The CMA recommends an independent body to oversee fees; this body needs to have teeth and the authority to compel Local Authorities to pay given that the Market Shaping duties have clearly failed. If the market continues without a considerable funding injection or better commissioning practice, the closure of care home providers will limit choice and competition”.
ADASS RESPONDS TO CMA CARE HOME MARKET STUDY
Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said:
“This telling report highlights how vulnerable people can be when moving into a care home and shows that adult social care is not sustainable without extra funding. This echoes what ADASS and the entire sector have long-called for and highlights that adult social care needs to be a national priority.
“We recognise the importance of providing information and advice to help people make informed choices about care homes that meet their needs, that making comments and complaints after the upheaval of moving can be difficult and that the capacity to plan for the future and growing need is difficult in the current climate.
“Balancing the funds available, the price that can be paid to providers, the level of quality and the number of people that can be supported is an unenviable task. It is deeply unfortunate that this report is published a week after a Budget that ignored the crisis in social care.”
The Independent Care Group another representative group commented on the watchdog’s report, which warns that the current system for providing social care is no longer sustainable without more funding saying it should be a wake-up call to the Government, a provider group said today.
The influential Competition and Markets Authority report has identified a funding shortfall of £1bn a year for care homes because some local authorities are not paying the true cost of care.
Instead, some care home owners have to charge up to 40% higher prices to those who pay for their own care than those whose fees are paid by the councils.
It also warned that uncertainty over future funding was holding providers back from investing in new accommodation to meet the ever-growing demand for care.
The Independent Care Group said the CMA’s report repeated a warning that providers and other influential bodies had been making for years.
Chair Mike Padgham said: “Today’s report from the CMA is welcome and is yet another wake-up call to the Government that the current system is in crisis and unless something is done about it quickly the 1.2m people currently going without the care they need is going to rocket.
“The CMA report identifies issues that we as providers will all have to pay heed to as well, but none are stronger than the need for extra funding in the sector.
“The recent budget contained nothing to help social care and we are now left in limbo, waiting for a Green Paper that won’t come out until next summer.”
Ombudsman responds to CMA care home report
Michael King, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, also responded to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) Care Homes market study.
“Our Annual Review of Adult Social Care Complaints has recently highlighted that many care providers have been working harder to make their complaints processes more accessible and telling people they can come us to resolve any lasting disputes.
“But there is more work to be done, and we welcome the CMA’s recommendation for statutory signposting to us, which would place the onus firmly on care providers to make this right known to their service users. This already exists in other parts of the UK and we have called for it in England for a number of years.
“Our casework shows there is a need for better information to be made available to service users and their families, particularly around care charges, to allow them to make informed choices about care. We are pleased to see the report call for this, and an important review of advocacy support. Better access to advocacy services, as the CMA has recognised, would also help improve the current system for people receiving care.
“We know many people simply give up after they have been through the local complaints process even if they remain unhappy. Care staff should be empowered to provide swift and proportionate responses so as not deter people from pursuing their concerns.
“Above all, we want to see a culture shift in the approach to complaints. We know the best councils and care providers empower their workforce to deal with complaints and to view them as free feedback and an opportunity to learn from their mistakes – and those of others – to drive service improvements. This can only be done by taking ownership of complaints, and their outcomes, at the highest level.”
Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said:
“These findings echo the heart breaking stories we’ve heard from hundreds of people who have struggled to find appropriate local care for themselves or a loved one.
“The Government must now act on these important recommendations and ensure that their Green Paper delivers the fundamental reforms needed to secure high quality, affordable care for older people – both now and in the future.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
“This devastating report from the nation’s market experts means we now have it on the highest authority that the care home market, a sector that many hundreds of thousands of older people depend on, is broken and living on borrowed time.
“The report also substantiates what Age UK has been hearing from concerned members of the public: namely that the business practices of some, but not all, care home operators are unfair & exploitative of older people and their families at an incredibly vulnerable time of their lives.”
“We welcome the CMA’s commitment to helping to improve care homes’ business practices, including through enforcement action if necessary, but the real challenge is to Government to heed the warning in the report and act fast to support the sustainability of care homes – before it’s too late.”