We’ve been investigating care home websites and contracts. We weren’t happy with what we found. Many providers weren’t upfront about charges, and some could be breaching consumer protection laws with unfair terms.
Last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its mid-year update of its year-long market study into the care homes market, and its findings were bleak.
But we weren’t surprised because during this time we’d been doing our own investigations into care homes. For months, people have been telling us their stories about the troubles they’ve faced while dealing with care homes, either for themselves or on behalf of a loved one.
While it certainly isn’t the case for everyone, many people told us that going into a care home or having to find care for a relative can be an emotional and stressful time. At these times, It’s unlikely you’d be thinking about ‘shopping around for the best deal’, but rather the most appropriate care setting.
And yet our investigations found that during a time when you need vital information to make these important decisions, such as the cost of rooms, how many staff will be available at any one point, or what the visiting rights are for family and friends, care home providers are making it needlessly difficult to find out these details.
And on analysing the small sample of care home contracts we were eventually able to get our hands on (even these were a struggle to find), we found a number of terms and conditions that could be potentially breaching consumer protection laws.
The CMA has already opened up a consumer protection case to investigate whether care home providers really are breaching consumer law. But we’ve heard about the traumatic impact unfair contracts can have on people, often when they’re at their most vulnerable.
One relative of a care home resident told us:
’…the contract that we signed said that at whatever point in the month a resident dies, there will be no refund for the rest of that month. Even though we were prepared to fully clear his room that day, we never received a penny back. Upset from just losing Dad, I was not in a fit state to challenge this.’
‘I paid for 1:1 care but within 24 hours I was asked to remove my husband as they could not cope with him. I had asked what would happen if they couldn’t cope and they just said, ‘Don’t worry about that’. I was not informed I may have to remove him. My GP and social services told me to report them to the Care Quality Commission as they did not give him a chance and they should not have asked me to remove him.’
Stamping out poor practice
We’re pressing the CMA to widen its investigation and take action against providers breaching consumer protection laws to stamp out poor practice and ensure people entering the care setting are properly protected.
We will continue to feed in your experiences to inform the regulator’s work, which concludes at the end of the year, so please share your story with us using our care home reporting tool.