Councils are failing their care duties, charity claims

Startling studies conducted by Independent Age have called into question whether local authorities are meeting their care obligations to provide support to elderly and vulnerable adults in Britain.

Research found that many local authorities are failing to meet the legal minimum standards of the Care Act 2014 in regards to the information they provide on their care services.

70 per cent of care providers were unable to demonstrate that they offered sufficient online information in all areas required by the Act. Only 52 per cent gave a ‘good response’ to probing questions, 34 per cent gave ‘unsatisfactory answers’ and 5 per cent gave a ‘partial response’.

In 23 per cent of cases, surveyors found that it ‘difficult’ to find the relevant number to call on the Council’s website – and, in 9 per cent, callers were unable to get through. Independent Age also found that Councils were failing to properly record top-up fees paid by service users. Top-up fee contracts were not always negotiated with a Council’s knowledge, meaning that the true extent of top-up fee payments was often unknown.

Some Councils were unaware of their financial liability and many were found to have failed to fulfil their legal responsibility to ensure relatives were ‘able and willing’ to pay.

Drastic differences in top-up fee approaches were recorded between Councils, with some minimising their use and others regarding them as routine.

In some cases, Councils switched positions, causing confusion to care providers – and few Councils urged relatives to seek specialist advice before signing top-up fee contracts.

Georgina Leighton, Solicitor at Palmers, said: “The reports are pretty damning in their findings. There appears to be a significant shortfall both in the way councils provide information to members of the public and the lack of consistency in the way they deal with care home top up fees.

“Relatives trying to make sense of their loved ones’ care fees, are clearly facing an uphill battle as the whole situation appears to be unreliable and lacks transparency.

“This underlines the value of seeking expert legal advice for those facing a need for long-term care and their families. Advice obtained at an early stage can significantly reduce the amount paid by individuals for their care”.

Our Older Client team at Palmers Solicitors specialise in advising on all aspects of residential and nursing care, including liability for long-term fees and top-up payments. For more information, please contact our South Woodham Ferrers team at enquiries@palmerslaw.co.uk.