Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Care Cash Crisis

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Care Cash Crisis

Article excerpt

Byline: Craig Thompson Reporter

BRITAIN'S care home crisis took a new twist after a landmark Tyneside court case.

It was claimed that council bosses were treating older folk like "animals" in a wrangle over care payments.

Newcastle City Council was taken to court by a care home provider unhappy about the level of fees paid to support the city's older people.

Mr Justice Norris ruled the council was in the wrong, a decision which could have implications for care homes across the country.

The action was taken by Abbeyfield Newcastle Upon Tyne Society Limited amid claims the authority's weekly payments to council-funded care home residents failed to meet the "actual cost" of caring for them.

Mr Justice Norris ruled in favour of the provider, who today said the decision would have "profound implications for the funding of care home residents throughout the UK".

Abbeyfield launched the case after the cash-strapped authority announced in 2010 that it was freezing the weekly rates it was willing to pay to meet the cost of caring for non self-funding care home residents.

The council was paying PS436 per week from April 2009, and suggested a freeze at that rate from April 2010 initially for three years.

Abbeyfield claimed the rate was too low and requested the authority pay a higher rate, more representative of the actual cost of care.

In a letter to the council they said: "Perhaps your legal services directorate needs to be reminded we are not storing merchandise on behalf of the council, nor even keeping animals. We are providing homes and care for elderly people."

Newcastle City Council opted not to raise its fees and in a letter sent in June 2010 said it would remove care providers who did not sign new contracts with the authority, an action which Mr Justice Norris of the Chancery Division of the High Court has now condemned.

In his judgement, he said: "This threat was plainly unlawful.

"The council could not lawfully exclude any provider from a list."

The judge also ruled the council should have paid a "reasonable rate" to Abbeyfield of PS450 in 2010/11 and PS460 in 2012/13.

John Kilner, chair of the executive committee at Abbeyfield, took the case to court.

Following the judgement, he said: "What Newcastle City Council has been willing to pay to meet the cost of residents who do not have the means to self-fund falls significantly short of what is needed to maintain the high levels of care that we are committed to delivering. "Since this disagreement, Abbeyfield's Charitable Trust has had to fund the widening gap between the actual cost of care and the amount of funds received by Newcastle City Council.

"We recognise that public sector budgets have been under significant pressure but we cannot and will not compromise on the level of care that we provide to our elderly residents in order to reduce our already value for money fees. …

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