UK care homes for people over 65 will have to comply with stricter new guidance, issued to crackdown on unfair practices and better protect consumers’ rights.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – a non-ministerial government department – released the guidance last week, to help care homes to comply with consumer law.
Both private care homes and those funded by the NHS or a local authority have to comply with the new law.
Failure to do so might result in the CMA taking action against care homes. According to the Government, this could result in court proceedings, seeking compensation on behalf of a resident, or criminal prosecutions.
The guidance was issued after the CMA published a study on the sector last year. The study found that some care homes could be breaking consumer law by, for instance, not providing the right information on their website about pricing or terms of conditions or only sharing essential information after someone has expressed interest in moving in.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: ‘We’ve already taken action against some providers who charged compulsory upfront fees or continued to charge for extended periods after a resident’s death.’
‘Taken for a ride’
Minister for care Caroline Dinenage said the Government will also improve customer protection as part of the adult social care green paper, which is expected to be published before the end of the year.
Ms Dinenage said: ‘It is a scandal [that] some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being taken for a ride by a minority of unscrupulous care home providers. Everyone living in a care home should be treated fairly and with respect.
‘I am determined to protect residents by stamping out unfair practices and secretive fees. This important new guidance will help care homes understand and comply with their responsibilities under consumer law.’
Advice to care homes
The points mentioned in the CMA guidance for care homes to consider include:
- Making key information available before residents and their families sign a contract with the provider
- Making contract terms clear and easy to understand
- Stipulating that fees should not increase arbitrarily. Providers should specify under which circumstances residents can expect fees to rise
The Care Provider Alliance (CPA) – which brings together the 10 main national associations representing independent and voluntary adult social care providers in England – said it welcomed the CMA’s final advice.
It added that it will produce some material for its members to guide them through the CMA recommendations.