Arranging care can often come at the most difficult of times. Decisions may be forced without too much consideration. You finally settle on a home for your elderly relative or friend and sign on the dotted line, but did you read and understand the contract?
When we took a deeper look at care home contracts as part of our Care needs care now campaign, we found that some care homes may be breaking the law by failing to tell residents and their families about important terms and conditions.
Knowing and understanding the nitty-gritty details is important when signing any contract, but especially so when it’s for the care of a loved one. In our undercover investigation, we contacted 50 care homes and told them we were looking for care for an elderly relative.
We asked for documents including a sample contract, but fewer than one in ten actually shared that information with us. In fact, we only managed to get our hands on four contracts and three of them included terms that could be considered unfair to residents.
We’ve heard about contracts with dodgy terms such as charging fees for a month after the death of a resident and the right to terminate a contract with 24 hours’ notice for undefined ‘detrimental behaviour’.
Some of you may recall Pam sharing her story about her mother’s snap eviction after a number of years of living there. This coincidentally happened on the same day that Pam raised a complaint about staffing levels and care standards.
Pam’s story isn’t unique: of the thousands who’ve shared their personal experiences with us of arranging care, we’ve heard many hundreds of harrowing incidents of snap evictions and unfair charging.
One care arranger told us:
‘The manager said that due to the type of dementia our friend was suffering from, she would have to place them on 24/7, one-to-one care, at a cost of £15 per hour. The bills went up from £4,000 per month to over £15,000. We protested but were told that we had signed an agreement saying this could be done. The agreement gave no indication of the costs involved.’
Although most people who completed our care arranger’s survey claimed to understand their care home contract well, we saw mass confusion around important terms.
We found that 38% didn’t know if their care home could evict a resident without giving a reason, 34% weren’t aware that the home could evict a resident without giving the notice period stated in the contract, and 31% did not know if the home could charge fees after a resident vacated a room.
When choosing a care home, the terms of the contract are of paramount importance. Before making any decision you should get hold of the contract to carefully examine the terms and conditions that you’re signing up to.
If a care home fails to provide prospective residents and their families with the important information they need to make an informed decision, then the care home risks being in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Care Needs Care Now
Our Care needs care now campaign is calling on the government to take action on the regulator’s recommendations to strengthen consumer protections for care home residents and relatives. This includes contracts, unfair fees and evictions.
The regulator agreed with many of our care campaign findings back in December and the government’s deadline to respond to these recommendations is next Tuesday.
Do you think the government should take action to better protect those in care and their care arrangers? Have you arranged care for an elderly relative or friend? Did you understand the contract and terms and conditions? How helpful was the care home throughout the process?