Old People Auctioned off to Care Homes on Internet; Anger over 'Cattle Markets for Grannies' as Councils Accept Lowest Bids to Save Cash

Daily Mail (London), February 9, 2015 | Go to article overview

Old People Auctioned off to Care Homes on Internet; Anger over 'Cattle Markets for Grannies' as Councils Accept Lowest Bids to Save Cash


Byline: Ruth Lythe and Claire Duffin

THE elderly and disabled are being 'put up for auction' by local councils on 'eBay-style' websites, with care firms then bidding to offer them a bed.

At least a dozen local authorities are listing vulnerable people's details - including their age and what care and medication they need - before inviting bids from care homes in the area.

The bidding is sometimes open for only a few hours, at other times it can last for two or three days. The cheapest offer often wins.

Critics last night said the system was akin to 'auctioning your granny' and a 'cattle market', saying sensitive decisions about an elderly resident's final years are being made by a computer program that is only interested in costs. It also means the patient or their family often does not see the care home, and that those running the home do not see the patient before they arrive.

One council has boasted of reducing care costs by almost a fifth using the system.

The auction-style process allows Turn to Page 4 Continued from Page One councils to circulate anonymised details of individuals to a large number of suppliers who then bid in an online auction for the contract. As many as 100 providers can bid before the software produces a shortlist of the most favourable. Shortlisted bidders are then told where they are ranked in the process.

If they are in second position, they can adjust their bid - either by lowering the price or offering extra care services - so that they can move up to first.

Councils say quality is the first consideration, but figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show 92 per cent of care packages commissioned on the system over a six-month period were awarded to the bidder with the lowest price, BBC 5 Live revealed.

Ros Altmann, a Government adviser and independent expert on care for the elderly, said: 'These eBay-style sites highlight the funding crisis for elderly care. It is awful. The idea of bidding for a person is just uncivilised. These are not parcels, they are people.' Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said: 'Do we really want to treat older people as a "product" to be bought and sold this way? We are concerned that older people's needs will lose out to price as the main reason for selecting a home.' At least 12 councils use the auction-style systems. They include Kent County Council, Devon County Council, Southend Borough Council and Birmingham City Council. …

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