William Eichler 16 November 2018

Regulator calls for more transparency in the care home sector

Care homes should be upfront about all of the terms and conditions in their contracts to ensure residents and their representatives are treated fairly, new guidelines say.

The advice is part of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) follow on from their examination of the care sector last year, which found that some residents are at risk of being treated unfairly.

The CMA warned last June that ‘certain practices and contract terms’ used in the sector might break consumer law. They unearthed cases of large upfront fees and fees charged after death.

They also raised concerns about a lack of information on care home websites about prices, and found examples of contracts giving care homes wide-ranging discretion to ask residents to leave at short notice.

‘It’s vital that care homes treat residents and their families fairly, which is why we have issued advice to all homes across the UK to help them understand what they should and should not be doing under consumer law,’ said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.

The advice published today explains what upfront information they should give to potential residents, their families or other representatives in order to ensure they can make informed choices.

This includes giving an indication of the weekly fees charged to self-funders and highlighting any especially important or surprising terms and conditions that will apply.

It also sets out how to make sure contract terms and the way residents and their representatives are treated is fair and explains how to handle complaints fairly and ensure their complaints procedure is easy to find and use.

‘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,’ said Ms Coscelli.

‘We’ll continue to monitor how well care homes are complying and won’t hesitate to take action again if we find evidence that providers have broken consumer law.’

Welcoming the publication of the guidance, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King said: ‘From our vast experience of investigating complaints about adult social care, we know just how important it is that people are given information about how and where to complain, including how to escalate a complaint to us, before they make crucial decisions about their care.

‘Clarity and transparency about terms and conditions of contracts are also vital, so care users - and their families and representatives - can make informed choices. We have echoed this in a number of our focus reports and guidance over the past few years.’

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