‘Scrooge’ council awarded wooden spoon for paying lowest care home fees in Wales
A council has been awarded a giant wooden spoon for paying the lowest care home fees in Wales and refusing to hand out free personal protective equipment.
An investigation by social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) revealed that the six North Wales local authorities were at the bottom of the league table for paying the lowest rates for residential care.
According to the Chair, Mario Kreft MBE, it was clear that they were ‘operating a fee-fixing cartel’ with the lowest five were paying exactly the same amount, £711.83 per person, per week for fully regulated care.
The only exception in North Wales was last year’s wooden spoon recipient Flintshire County Council which pays marginally more, £727.55, placing the authority sixth from bottom.
Mr Kreft said: “It all adds up to a growing north-south divide with the betrayal of elderly and vulnerable care home residents in Denbighshire and the rest of North Wales who are being treated with utter contempt”.
According to CFW, a care home in Denbighshire receives £10,432 less per resident, per year than a care home in parts of South Wales.
In a 50-bed care home that’s a difference of more than £500,000 a year for providing exactly the same level of service and being subjected to the same regulations.
Mr Kreft said: “We could have given the wooden spoon, which recognises the meanest local authority which pays the lowest residential care home fees, to any one of five North Wales councils because they are joint bottom of the league of shame.
“Last year it was awarded to Flintshire who are slightly out of the frame this year and this year it’s Denbighshire who deserve to be branded as the Scrooge council, although it must be said that the fees in Flintshire are still abysmally low.
“What tipped the balance was that Denbighshire Council is the only North Wales council to turn down the offer of free PPE from the Welsh Government who recognised the importance of protecting vulnerable people and staff in care homes. It’s an open and shut case.
“Members of the Senedd, particularly those who represent North Wales, should not turn a blind eye to this injustice.
“When you look at care homes in Denbighshire, they are almost without exception small and medium-sized local businesses – family-run organisations like most of our economy in North Wales.
“They provide crucial services to their communities, often reflecting the local culture and language , as well as providing vital support to families in the run up to Christmas so the way they are being treated is truly shameful.
“Care homes in Denbighshire are being denied the opportunity to have the free PPE that the Welsh Labour Government want them to have and they’re being denied by a Labour run county council.
“The public in Denbighshire need to ask what the Dickens is going on because the Leader of the council, Cllr McLellan, and his chief executive, Mr Boase, are behaving like latter day Scrooges.
“How is it that the older, vulnerable people in Denbighshire – people who have given so much to this country – are demoted to the bottom of the pile, especially after all we’ve been through with Covid. It’s totally unacceptable.
“If you live or work in a care home in Denbighshire you will know that Covid has not gone away even if most of the world thinks it has.
“I don’t understand why a Labour local authority is refusing to provide care homes in the area with free PPE that’s been paid for by the Welsh Government.
“What you’re seeing in Wales is a North-South divide. If you are old and vulnerable, you’re very lucky if you live in South Wales while those in Denbighshire are the unluckiest.
“These are statutory services and the law clearly says that the fees paid by local councils and health boards should reflect the true cost of care.
“It’s also institutional prejudice against the private sector who actually enable the NHS to function and if you haven’t got somewhere to discharge hospital patients the whole system will come to a grinding halt.
“Domiciliary care is also struggling financially because of irresponsibly low fees at a time when recruiting and retaining staff is more difficult than it’s ever been.
“All of which means that social care is in the eye of a perfect storm and Denbighshire have chosen this moment to decide not to hand out or find a distribution point for people to get the PPE that the Welsh Government has provided.
“It’s a total disgrace and the wooden spoon has gone to an authority that has shown utter contempt for older people who need to be in a care home along with those who cared for them through the most hideous global pandemic.
“Denbighshire County Council is the lowest of the low and shamefully deserving of this year’s Care Forum Wales Wooden Spoon Award.
A spokesperson for Denbighshire County Council said: “In 2023/24, Denbighshire County Council accepted the indicative care fee rates that were agreed by the Regional Care Fees Group consisting of the 6 Local Authorities and the Health Board. We also continued to offer providers the opportunity to enter in to an ‘open book’ discussion with us if they could evidence that our indicative fee did not cover their specific costs.
“Denbighshire County Council took the difficult decision, back in July 2023, not to store and distribute PPE to its care providers based on the fact that there was no funding from Welsh Government to support this and unfortunately the financial pressures that the Council is under as a local authority led to it having to make this very difficult decision. The amount of PPE the Council was delivering to care providers had reduced significantly over the last 12 months and whilst recognising that many of its providers utilised the service, others hadn’t. Without any additional Welsh Government funding Denbighshire County Council was simply not in a position to continue renting a storage unit and staffing it. Care providers expressed to the Council that they were disappointed that Welsh Government was unable to continue the funding for storage and onward distribution, but also added their thanks for the support they have received over the last 3 years and they took the opportunity to collect PPE from the amount the Council had left.
“We continue to be committed to engaging and working with the sector as we have done for many years.”
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