Posted: Fri 15th Mar 2024

Elderly Care Home Funding Gap Concerns in Denbighshire, UK /

There will be a funding gap of more than £9,000 between an elderly person at a care home in Rhyl compared one being looked after in neighbouring Kinmel Bay, claims a health care campaigner.
Next week Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet is set to agree an 8.8% increase in residential and nursing care home fees for 2024/25 – if councillors back the move.
But Care Forum Wales says the increase is not enough, claiming 8.8% amounts to an actual cut when inflation is factored in. The report excludes the specialist residential and nursing home placements for complex disabilities and mental health citizens.
As of December 2023, Denbighshire commissioned 364 placements in 82 homes to provide care and support for older people in residential, EMI residential, nursing and EMI nursing placements.
The placements are expected to cost the council an estimated £13m from a total of £39m spent on care packages across the whole of adult social care. Although most placements are paid for by Denbighshire, some are also jointly funded by the health board.
Mario Kreft, the chair of Care Forum Wales, has criticised Denbighshire, comparing the 8.8% proposals to neighbouring Conwy’s much greater increase.
Denbighshire said the increase was well above the 3.8% increase they’ve received in their local government settlement and said it will “significantly impact our budget at a time where savings targets loom large across various council services”.
Mr Kreft said: “Denbighshire are starting from the lowest possible base because they pay the lowest care home fees in Wales, and this proposed increase is not going to come close to solving the chronic underfunding of social care in the county.
“To put this in context, the neighbouring authority, Conwy Council, are increasing their fees by up to 20% because, unlike Denbighshire, they have recognised that there are care homes that are teetering on the financial brink.
“The 8.8% increase in Denbighshire will immediately be wiped out by inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. It also means that Denbighshire will be paying £9,224 a year less per person than in Conwy for providing exactly the same level of nursing care to residents. Why should an elderly person with dementia in Rhyl be worth £9,000 less than an elderly person just across the Foryd Bridge in Kinmel Bay?
“In a 40-bed care home that equates to a disparity of nearly £370,000 a year, which could mean the difference between staying open and being forced to close for care homes that are already struggling financially.”
Mr Kreft went on to say, in the last 18 months, North Wales had seen four homes close – Trewythen Hall in Gresford, Bay Court in Kinmel Bay, Gwastad Hall in Cefn y Bedd, and Morfa Newydd in Greenfield – with the combined loss of 163 beds.
He added: “The more realistic fees in Conwy came about because the council commissioned leading healthcare economists Laing & Buisson to analyse the true costs of care providers for the current year. In doing so they broke away from the North Wales Regional Fees Group – which is essentially a fee- fixing cartel – set up by the region’s six county councils and Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board.
“It comes against the backdrop of Conwy Council getting just a 2% increase in overall funding from the Welsh Government, which was the lowest in Wales, so there’s no excuse for Denbighshire to follow their example.
“This is something we have been calling for over many years. All we want is fairness in line with the Welsh Government’s ‘Let’s agree to agree’ guidance.”
He added: “Denbighshire’s chief executive Graham Boase, the Leader Jason McLellan, and the rest of the councillors should be ashamed of themselves if they betray vulnerable people with dementia in this way.”
Cllr Elen Heaton, Denbighshire’s lead member for health and social care, said: “The provision of care is at the heart of the council’s priorities, and this is evidenced in our approved budget allocations for 2024/25, which prioritises protection for social care and education, despite the acute nationwide local government funding crisis.
“It’s within this context we’ve approached the issue of care fees with due diligence and prudence, recognising the need to balance challenging financial constraints with our commitment to prioritising care provision.
“We currently spend around £13 million on approximately 364 placements in 82 care homes. This constitutes a huge part of our adult social care and homelessness budget and totals 6% of the council’s overall total net revenue budget.
“At our upcoming cabinet meeting, I will be proposing an 8.8% increase in our care fees, following careful consideration of inflation and the Real Living Wage increase.
“If approved by cabinet, our expenditure on care home fees will increase by around £1.1m. Given that the proposed increase is substantially more than the modest 3.8% increase we’ve received in our settlement, this increase will significantly impact our budget at a time where savings targets loom large across various council services. However, whilst this decision comes with financial implications, it reflects our priorities as a council and upholds our commitment to prioritising care provision in our community.”
She added: “We value our care providers in Denbighshire and remain committed to fostering an open and fair relationship with them. To this end, we consistently offer the opportunity for an ‘open book exercise’, where providers can openly share their financial information with us.
“This allows for a transparent discussion about the costs involved in delivering care services and helps ensure that public funds are being used efficiently. As Lead Member, I stand firmly behind this proposal, confident that it reflects our commitment to maintaining a sustainable future for the care sector in Denbighshire.”
Denbighshire’s cabinet will discuss the matter on Tuesday 19 March. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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