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Friday, 16 November 2018

Guidance aims to protect care home residents from 'unfair practices and secretive fees'

Written by The Editorial Team

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), sets 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.

CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli said: "It’s vital that care homes treat residents and their families fairly, which is why we have issued advice to all homes across the UK to help them understand what they should and should not be doing under consumer law.

"We’ve already taken action against some providers who charged compulsory upfront fees or continued to charge for extended periods after a resident’s death.

"We’ll continue to monitor how well care homes are complying and won’t hesitate to take action again if we find evidence that providers have broken consumer law."

Today’s advice sets out what care homes across the UK need to do to ensure they are treating their residents fairly, including:

  • what upfront information they should give to potential residents, their families or other representatives and when (through websites, over the phone and when people visit) to help them make informed choices. This includes giving an indication of the weekly fees charged to self-funders and highlighting any especially important or surprising terms and conditions that will apply (such as any requirement for residents to prove they can pay for their own care for a minimum period of time)
  • how to make sure contract terms and the way residents and their representatives are treated is fair
  • how to handle complaints fairly and ensure their complaints procedure is easy to find and use

The CMA has also published a short guide for care homes to accompany the full advice, as well as a short guide for residents and their families that explains their rights under consumer law.

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.

Picture (c) Jonathan Brady / PA Wire.