Charges for residents in Birmingham City Council care homes have rocketed by up to £183 a week – days after the local authority said it could only afford a 49p increase in the amount it pays for elderly people to be looked after in private sector residential homes.
The council provoked a storm of protest when it offered private home owners a one per cent rise in fees to continue to care for local authority clients.
The increase, the equivalent of 49p a week on basic non-nursing care rates, was described as financial suicide by home owners and some are refusing to sign new contracts with the council.
At the same time, Cabinet adults and communities member Sue Anderson approved huge increases in the amount the council allows its own homes to charge. A new scale of weekly fees includes:
* People with physical disabilities £600, up from £475 – a 26 per cent increase.
* People with learning disabilities £800, up from £617 – a 30 per cent increase.
* People with mental health needs £550, up from £492 – a 12 per cent increase.
The standard charge for older people without special needs rose by seven per cent to £525, compared to the £350 a week the council is prepared to pay private homes to provide the same service.
The heftiest increase is the weekly charge for short-stay residential care for adults with savings of more than £24,000, up from £146 to £525.
Charges for snacks and meals in council-run day centres have risen by between 15 and 40 per cent.
Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) defended her decision: “We are trying to accrue some income from people who can afford to pay, but very few people will pay the full charge.”
Just over half of council social services clients make a financial contribution toward the cost of care in homes.
But slightly under half – 1,925 people – have their care costs fully paid by the council because they are deemed unable to afford to pay.
Coun Anderson added that charges for meals in council homes and day centres should be compared with the cost of eating in restaurants and hotels.
One Birmingham private care home owner described the new charges as “indefensible”.
Mike Gimson, who runs the Moundesley Hall home, said: “They are asking us to sign unsustainable contracts with a one per cent increase, while they are awarding their own homes increases of more than 30 per cent.”
Mr Gimson said the council’s own old people’s homes, which are due to be closed over the next few years because many do not meet modern standards, were “self-confessed slums that you wouldn’t put a dog in”.
He added: “Birmingham social services have said their own homes are appalling and not fit for purpose. How people can even consider putting their parents in homes like this is beyond me.
“Social services are dictating which homes people will be placed in, and it is budget-led rather than needs-led.”
Les Latchman, secretary of Birmingham Care Consortium, a group representing private home owners, accused the council of using “dirty tactics”, with telephone calls lasting up to 45 minutes in an attempt to persuade his members to sign new contracts.
Mr Latchman added: “They are now saying that homes are signing and there is no shortfall in the provision for care homes.
“This we know for a fact is not true as social workers are saying that they are experiencing problems with finding homes that have signed.”
Coun Anderson rejected criticism of council homes, although she admitted that none met new registration standards demanded by the Government.
She insisted: “We haven’t got any poor homes. We have some average and some good.”
The increased charges are a blow to vulnerable people, according to Labour adults and communities spokeswoman Barbara Tassa.
Coun Tassa (Lab Stockland Green) said: “What additional services are people going to get for paying this extra money?
“How can this possibly be justified when you are talking about such a vulnerable client group?”
Conservative councillor Anne Underwood said private sector home owners were being treated “disgracefully” by the council.
Coun Underwood (Sutton Four Oaks) added: “We give them a paltry 49p a week yet we are upping the cost of running our own homes by a huge amount.”
Peter Hay, the council’s strategic director for adults and communities, admitted hard decisions had been taken. He said: “In Birmingham we are seeing a growth in demand for adult social care services, and the accelerating pace of this demand is creating a need to explore all available avenues of funding.
“The council’s charges in recent times have not kept pace with the increase in prices. The cost of the raw ingredients for meals in some services was greater than the charge.”