Many Derbyshire care homes are struggling because they are not paid realistic rates by the county council, an industry body claims.
Now the council is to shell out an extra £5.5 million a year – but home representatives still say that is not enough.
The authority already spends £117 million a year looking after 6,000 elderly people in Derbyshire who cannot afford the cost of their own care. This includes both covering care home fees and paying for people to be looked after in their own homes. The council funds care for 3,169 people in their own homes and 2,900 in care homes.
But care home owners believed the fees it pays are not enough to cover costs – even though it is set to raise those by 4.68 per cent. The extra cash comes after lobbying from the Derbyshire Care Providers Association, which said that the current fees did not cover the actual costs of the service.
It called the system “flawed”, “ineffective” and “inefficient”, saying that it was “disappointed” that the county council did “not wish to pursue this to establish what the true cost of care is”.
The association said it studied 11 care homes in the county and found that occupancy of beds was at 80 per cent. It criticised the fact that the council uses an occupancy rate of 90 per cent to calculate fees it owes care providers. Furthermore, it said that if a care home which can cater for 40 residents has an occupancy of 35 then the care home loses £1,037 a week, which drops to £1,777 if there are only 31 residents.
In response to the county council’s proposed payments hike, the association said that it was “disappointed” and that many care homes remain trading at a loss.
A letter from the association states: “We are obviously very disappointed that you do not wish to pursue this to establish what the true cost of care is.
“Over the last 15 months occupancy has been dropping in care homes that rely on local authority funded clients.
“These homes do not only struggle with an inadequate DCC fee, but now with a lower occupancy they are also trading at a loss and with major risk of becoming insolvent.
“Keeping these homes operating is critical in order for there to be any supply at all in certain areas.
“The margin in DCC’s flawed costing model has reduced year-on-year for care homes, making the market more inefficient and ineffective.”
There are 50 independent sector home care agencies in Derbyshire.
In a report prepared for county council cabinet members, officers wrote: “A comprehensive review of fee levels for independent sector care services is undertaken annually.
“To assist with this review, representatives of the Derbyshire Care Providers Association were invited to meet with Councillor Jean Wharmby, cabinet member for adult care, and Joy Hollister, strategic director for adult care on the 16 January 2018 to set out particular business pressures affecting the care market and their costs.
“The association continues to express its view that the detailed fee analysis and consultation previously undertaken by the council was flawed and the fee rates do not cover their actual costs.
“The regulated care home services provided by the organisations detailed in this paper all contribute towards promoting social value for people in Derbyshire.
“All of these services play a key role in their local communities, providing connections between families and friends and offering local employment.”
A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “We’re committed to supporting people to live safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible and it’s vital that the care they receive when they need it is of the highest quality.
“It’s important that the care agencies providing care on our behalf – in people’s own homes and in care homes – are in a position to deliver the quality care required and look after their staff at the same time.
“Care staff work extremely hard, often doing unsociable hours and sometimes in quite challenging circumstances.”
By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter