Monday 14 November 2011
Last week the High Court ruled that the freezing of care home fees by Sefton Council was unlawful.
Judge Raynor QC said the council had failed to properly assess "the actual costs of care".
The legal action was brought by Sefton Care Association, who represent the interests of 40 home operators providing about 1,600 beds and four individual proprietors.
Judge Raynor ruled that Sefton Council "failed adequately to investigate or address the actual costs of care with the claimants and other providers", which was contrary to relevant guidance.
The judge said setting fee levels significantly below actual cost would inevitably lead to a reduction in the quality of service provision which "may put individuals at risk".
Sefton council’s decision to freeze fees paid for 2011-2012 was made in December 2010.
The council has the 13th highest proportion of people aged 65 and over in England, with 1,595 people placed at residential and nursing care homes.
A spokesman for labour-controlled Sefton Council said: "The judgment does not say that we have made the wrong decision.
"It is merely critical of some elements of the process we went through. The proposal not to increase fees for care homes has not been criticised.
"A large part of our budget spend is on this type of care and we have to get the best possible value."
The English Community Care Association (ECCA), the leading representative charity for independent care providers, has welcomed the High Court’s ruling that Sefton Council acted unlawfully when making its decision to freeze care home fees for the second year running.
Martin Green, Chief Executive of ECCA, says:
"We are pleased to see that the High Court has recognised that in setting its fee, Sefton Council did not demonstrate due regard to the actual costs of providing care, failed to engage in a meaningful consultation with providers about its proposals to freeze fees, and failed to porperly assess the risks of its decision".
"We welcome the fact that the courts are ruling that the behaviour of local authorities is not acknowledging the true costs of care is not only immoral, but illegal. We expect that this case will lead councils to reflect on their commissioning practices and ensure fairer in the future".