Overcharging for care home services outlawed in the UK
1st January 2019 | Article by Samuel B. Jonjo
THE UK government has expressed new determination to protect elderly patients and service users from unscrupulous care home owners and other social care providers with a crackdown on unfair care home practices and secretive fees.
This will be in line with, and supportive of, new Competition and Markets Authority guidance against ‘unfair care home practices and secretive fees’ –which is a move approved by UK Care Minister Caroline Dinenage.
According to Dinenage:
‘New guidance by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is intended for UK residential care homes and nursing homes supporting people over the age of 65. These care providers will need to ‘embed’ the guidance into their businesses to comply with consumer law.
Care homes who fail to follow the law may face action from the CMA, Trading Standards, or others, who can bring court proceedings, seek compensation on behalf of residents and bring criminal prosecutions.
(News, November 16, 2018)
Whether we agreed with the rationale behind it or not, the austerity programme and attendant policy measures implemented by the UK Lib-Con coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron (2010-2015) leading on to the Conservative government of Prime Minster Theresa May has caused mayhem to the funding of Health and Social Care services in this country. As local authorities funding from central government was systematically cut down by as much as 27 per cent in some cases in order to make or reach the government’s planned savings targets, the implications for UK Health and Social Care services have never been so dire.
The Conservative governments have consistently argued that these measures were painfully necessary in order to rectify the UK’s unhealthy economic and financial situation they inherited from the previous Labour governments (1997-2010) but in terms of practical consequences of these measures for frontline Health and Social care services, it would appear the economic and financial doctors’ prescriptions were so bitter that it was gradually killing the patient rather than assisting him into fully recovery.
In this situation various Health and Social Care institutions and services were either closed or transformed to continue with less funding—mental health services, Accident and Emergency Departments, care services especially for the disabled and for the elderly etc in addition to personal social security benefit cuts. As would happen in any democratic society, it did not take long for citizens and the relevant institutions to become openly critical of the government.
Age UK succinctly described the problem for the domiciliary care sector in this short You Tube video below:
Similarly providers of Care Home services followed suit:
It is not surprising therefore that in this climate of underfunded social care services, many providers started charging patients and service users extra sums in order to cover funding shortfalls.
But as time went on the line became blurred between reasonable charges by providers of UK Health and Social Care services in order to offset or recoup financial losses resulting from cuts by the government’s austerity programmes on the one hand, and those of unscrupulous providers of UK Health and Social Care services on the other who are in the business only for the money.
This, among others, gave cause for publication of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA’s) guidance mentioned above and the recent tough stance of the UK conservative government against overcharging for care services.
By March 2017 the good news was that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May had not only authorised local authorities to raise Council Tax by up to an additional 6 percent in order to fund social care in England but also announced in the 2017 national budget an additional sum of £2 billion to fund social care. Has this finally closed the gap in funding UK social care?