Vulnerable people living in care homes and their families will be better protected from unfair care home practices and secretive fees under new guidance published today.
The guide, published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), is a watershed moment for consumer rights in the sector setting out what providers should and should not be doing, to protect vulnerable older residents and their families.
Care homes who fall short and fail to comply with the law could face action from the CMA or others such as Trading Standards, who can bring court proceedings, seek compensation on behalf of residents and, in certain cases, bring criminal prosecutions.
The CMA’s year-long study into the sector, which concluded in November 2017, identified a risk of residents being treated unfairly and that some care homes may be breaking the law.
For example, not being able to find the necessary information about pricing and terms and conditions on a provider’s website, or receiving key information only after someone has already expressed an interest in moving into a home, is likely to affect a prospective resident and their family’s ability to make informed decisions. The CMA’s guidance makes clear that prospective residents and their families need clear, accurate, prominent and timely upfront information.
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said:
“It is a scandal some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being taken for a ride by a minority of unscrupulous care home providers. Everyone living in a care home should be treated fairly and with respect.
I am determined to protect residents by stamping out unfair practices and secretive fees. This important new guidance will help care homes to understand and comply with their responsibilities under consumer law.
Later this year we will set out plans to further improve consumer protections as part of the adult social care green paper.”
The advice is intended for UK care homes for people over 65 and covers detailed guidance which providers will now need to understand and embed into their businesses. For example:
- The need to provide key information upfront and in a timely manner, including on websites, so that potential residents and their families can make an informed decision before signing a contract, including full, accurate and up to date fee breakdowns.
- Contract terms must be clear, easy to understand and accessible. For example, terms contained in multiple documents located in different places could be deemed ‘hidden’ and therefore unfair under consumer law.
- Fee increase terms need to be treated with great care, and must not allow providers to increase fees arbitrarily. Fee variation terms should set out clearly the circumstances in which the resident’s fees may change and the method of calculating the change.
This will ensure residents can make informed decisions about their care, be confident they will be treated fairly, bring complaints if they have concerns and – where necessary – receive compensation.
The CMA have publish a guide for residents and potential residents to make sure they are aware of their rights. Read it here from 9.00 today.