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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 01:27 GMT
Care homes in 'funding crisis'

Many homes for the elderly are facing closure
The owners of care homes for the elderly are to lobby MPs at Westminster claiming social services do not pay them enough for their work.

Home owners have repeatedly clashed with local authorities during the last 12 months over what they say are inadequate fees paid to the private sector.

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes Association (NCHA), said: "This dire lack of funding has seen thousands of elderly residents needlessly blocking hospital beds this winter while they wait for social services funding.

The government is in great danger of losing the services of the private care industry

Sheila Scott
"Ironically the private care home sector is in a position to provide a high standard of care but at a fraction of the cost that local authorities pay themselves.

"But with uncertainty over funding, many of our members have already decided enough is enough and voted with their feet and got out of the market entirely.

"And we predict more of the remaining care homes will go out of business because of underfunding.

"This lobby is a desperate attempt to convince government that it is in great danger of losing the services of the private care industry if they do not pay proper attention to its funding."

Falling fees

The NCHA estimates that more than 70% of elderly people cared for in independent residential care homes and nursing homes are funded by the state.

The government awards local authorities an annual grant increase in line with inflation to fund community care.

This money is not ring-fenced and the NCHA argues that local authorities pay less in fees to the independent sector than they spend to provide equivalent care in their own homes.

The NCHA estimates that their members will receive fee increases of, on average, just 1.6% from April.

Rising costs

The Association also argues that while its members have to make do with inadequate fees they are having to absorb increased running costs, including the National Minimum Wage, working time regulations and a levy on care home beds, to fund registration and inspection.

About 1,000 care home owners, accompanied by some residents, are expected to travel to the House of Commons to lobby their local MPs on the funding issue.

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See also:

04 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Lib Dems warn of care home swipe cards
03 Nov 00 | Scotland
Care homes 'face bankruptcy'
27 Jul 00 | UK
Coughing up for care
17 Apr 00 | Wales
Home care 'lottery' for elderly
30 Aug 00 | Health
Experts condemn care for elderly
02 Mar 01 | Health
New measures to help the elderly
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