two hands grip each other

A ROW has broken out between a council and owners of residential care homes over a claim people were told they would be charged an extra £63 a week in fees.

Torfaen County Borough Council said it, and care home residents, were “being held over a barrel” by the demand, but the owners insist they highlighted what they consider a shortfall in funding from the authority and haven’t told people they will have to pay more.

A letter, sent to residents of one care home, said that unless residents are privately funding their care “in most cases” there would be “no financial impact on them” as the council has a responsibility to pay the full fee for suitable care.

The row centres on how the council has calculated a 7.5 per cent increase in fees it has offered homes, making a weekly payment per resident of £1,022.10, which it has described as “fair”.

Care bosses however say they believe the fee should be £1,085, which is a difference of £62.90, and have said they have given six weeks notice of their intention to charge a rate above that offered by the council.

They say the council is only willing to fund pay increases for 65 per cent of their staff, leaving them to fund increases for other staff, including team leaders and senior carers, while also having to manage rising food and heating costs that have increased by more than 20 per cent.

A joint letter was produced by care home owners last week which prompted the council to contact residents and their families, it says, to offer reassurances.

A statement by the council said: “The letter states the providers are refusing to accept the standard care fees provided by the council and will charge individuals directly for the extra £63 they say they need to deliver care.”

The council’s cabinet member for social care, Cllr David Daniels, said: “This would appear as though care providers are holding either families or the council over a barrel to get the extra money they’re demanding.”

But care providers say they haven’t told residents they will have to pay more.

Mark Peniuk, director of the Summerhill Group, which runs four homes, two of which are in Torfaen, said: “We haven’t said that residents must pay the underfunding element – we have simply highlighted Torfaen council’s responsibilities, under the Social Services Well Being (Wales Act) 2014, to negotiate a fair fee and meet the full cost of such to ensure residents’ needs are met.

“The only reason we have reached this point is that, unlike previous years, Torfaen have not participated in meaningful discussions to set the fee, they simply imposed it upon us.”

Mark Virgo, of Virgo Care Homes, which has three homes in Torfaen, said: “Until this year we have never charged more than the agreed Torfaen rate and that’s over the last 22 years and we’ve always worked with the council to ensure this is the case, but something has changed in Torfaen this year.

“I can also reassure all family members that we’re more than happy to work to a fair resolution with Torfaen council and we’ll be as flexible as we can.”

Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, which represents home owners, said: “It’s very clear that what they really need to be doing is rewarding a workforce that has been heroic through the Covid crisis.”

Torfaen, which says it pays the highest fees in Gwent and has increased fees by 40 per cent over five years, has said it will continue to talk with home owners.

The council’s director of social care, Jason O’Brien, said their proposed increase would however cost the council an additional £900,000 this year.

He said: “We will go back to the table to understand how they are calculating the alleged shortfall and how the care their care and costs differ in Torfaen.

“I wish to reassure families that their loved ones will not see any changes in care while these discussions are ongoing.”

Photo credit

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash