Charities demand action on recommendations by the Office of Fair Trading

Published 18 May 2005

A coalition of nearly 30 charities is calling on the government to act swiftly to the recommendations made by the Office of Fair Trading following a major investigation into the care homes market.

The inquiry was prompted by a super-complaint by Which? in conjunction with the Social Policy Ageing Information Network (SPAIN) in December 2003. The charity alliance believes the subsequent recommendations produced by the OFT could do much to fill the information gap for people choosing and moving into a care home.

Annie Stevenson, chair of SPAIN, says:

'These recommendations represent a major step forward for older people and their families. At the moment too many people are being left to negotiate complex contracts, often at times of crisis.

We were shocked to learn from the OFT study that 40% of local authorities suspect more top-ups are being paid in their area than they know about. This is something that the government must urgently address.

We agree with the OFT that self-funders should have the same access to advice and information as state-funded people. But we would like the government to go further and consider giving self-funders the right to choose to have their local authority negotiate a contract on their behalf. The government must respond positively to the OFT's recommendations if it is to ensure that all older people get the care and protection they need, when they need it.'

Carer quotes on choosing a care home:

'It felt a very lonely task, and a terribly responsible one - and it was the first time I had ever done anything like it. It is not clear how the prices related to the quality of care provided. A more expensive home does not always have a better staffing ratio or more activities or better food - at least this was not obvious or transparent.'

'It should be easier to access independent reviews of care homes to provide information on standards of care, value for money etc. Most people have no knowledge of the sector until forced into finding a care home, often at short notice.'

'Elderly care home residents have a right to be respected as citizens who have contributed much to this country during their lifetime, as well as a right to fair treatment and protection when they are at their most vulnerable.'

'The letter said my wife would be allowed £125 a week nursing allowance. The fees of the home were £450 per week. A week or so later I received a letter informing me the fees would be increased to £615, which included the nursing allowance. I was outraged by this increase.'

For case study details or further information about SPAIN please contact Hannah Laslett on 0207 306 0813.

Notes for editors

  • The government has 90 days to respond to the OFT recommendations.
  • SPAIN is a network of mainly voluntary organisations whose aim is to improve the quality of life for older people, particularly those who require care. It includes:  Abbeyfield Society, Action on Elder Abuse, Age Concern England, Alzheimer's Society, Anchor Trust, Arthritis Care, Association of Charity Officers, Association of Retired Persons Over 50, Beth Johnson Foundation, Carers UK, Centre for Policy on Ageing, Counsel and Care, Fawcett Society, Greater London Forum for the Elderly, Hanover Housing Association, Health and Older People, Help the Aged, Hill Homes, Jewish Care, MHA Care Group, National Association of Citizen Advice Bureaux, National Pensioners Convention, Parkinsons Disease Society, RADAR, Relatives and Residents Association, Senior Citizens Forums Network, The Leveson Centre, VOICES
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