GWYNEDD council has been accused of acting “unlawfully” for starving care homes of the essential funds they need to look after frail and vulnerable people.
Care Forum Wales (CFW) said several local authorities are breaking official guidelines that state they need to “take into account the legitimate current and future costs faced by providers”.
Apart from being grossly unfair, they say, it was also “deeply hypocritical” because they often paid their own council-run care homes substantially more for providing the same level of care.
Relations reached a new low when CFW resigned from the North Wales Fee Setting Group – which also included representatives from the six local authorities in North Wales and the Health Board - amid claims the region’s councils were “deprioritising care” even though they had been given more money by the Welsh Government to pay for it.
CFW chair Mario Kreft MBE says a report by officials states councils are obliged by law to pay sustainable fees to providers.
The report said: “Fee setting must take into account the legitimate current and future costs faced by providers as well as the factors that affect those costs, and the potential for improved performance and more cost-effective ways of working.
“The fees set need to be adequate to enable providers to meet the specifications set by the commissioners, together with regulatory requirements. If a council deviates from guidance without a considered and cogently reasoned decision it acts unlawfully and in a manner which is amenable to challenge and judicial review.”
Mr Kreft said: “The message does not appear to be reaching councillors in north Wales who are living in cloud cuckoo land when it comes to paying realistic fees that will enable care homes to stay open and provide a much-needed service and underpin the NHS.
“The only way care homes can remain viable is by charging top of fees so that they can meet those additional costs.
“Inevitably, those councillors are placing the burden on honest, hard-working families and it all adds up to a stealth tax on them at a time when the cost of living is going through the roof.”
Overall, there has been an overall rise of 9.4 per cent in local authority funding but the increases in fee levels have almost all been lower, at 6-7.5 per cent.
Mr Kreft said: “We know budgets are stretched but a society will be judged on how it treats the most vulnerable and frail people in our communities.”
A Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “As a council, we increased fees from the beginning of April to reflect annual inflation, the real living wage requirements and related costs.
“In addition, the council has already decided to give further consideration to the issues raised by local providers in relation to the true cost of care. A report on these matters is expected to be considered by the council’s cabinet by the end of June.”
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