A care home owner has slammed Flintshire County Council as the “meanest in Wales” after it was named and shamed for providing the lowest funding anywhere.
The provider, who declined to be named for fear of being victimised and blacklisted by the council, was shocked to discover that the funding for individual residents in Flintshire is up to £11,000 a year less per person than in parts of Wales – for providing exactly the same level of service.
The revelation came after what social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) describe as a “fee-fixing North Wales cartel” was blown apart by Gwynedd Council whose Cabinet voted unanimously for increases of up to 25 per cent.
Their decision followed similar hikes in Merthyr Tydfil where councillors were warned that not paying fees that reflected the “true cost of care” would be unlawful.
According to CFW, it’s left the remaining five local authorities in North Wales “with nowhere to hide” and Flintshire County Council at the bottom of what’s come to be known as the League of Shame, detailing the fees paid in different parts of Wales.
As a result, the local authority has been awarded a giant, five foot tall wooden spoon.
The unnamed Flintshire care home owner said: “I am left feeling physically sick when I see the levels of funding for people in care in other parts of Wales.
“It is our residents who are suffering from the penny-pinching attitude of Flintshire Council but it costs the same to look after someone in Flintshire as it does in Gwynedd or Merthyr but Flintshire Council pay a lot less.”
CFW say the Flintshire care home is also at the wrong end of a growing North-South divide.
They say the postcode lottery was brought into sharp focus when Torfaen Council announced big increases in their rates – 17 per cent for residential care and 25 per cent for nursing care.
It means that a 50-bed care home in Torfaen will receive £546,000 a year more for providing residential EMI care than a similar sized home in Anglesey, Wrexham and Flintshire for exactly the same levels of care.
In the case of Denbighshire it equates to an extra £494,000 a year and £444,600 more than a home in Conwy.
The anonymous Flintshire care provider added: “I love my job. I love the role of supporting and caring for people who need that help and the days that I’m hands on and providing that care are the best days of my week.
“Ten years ago I enjoyed the management side of the job as well but not any more, not when we’re starved of the necessary funding which means I can’t afford to decorate or even properly clean the place and I know that council-owned homes are decorated every year.
Last year’s bottom two were Swansea and Neath Port Talbot and both have boosted their care fees by over 12 per cent while Blaenau Gwent (14.9 per cent) and Caerphilly (13.40 per cent), found even more money.
It’s a state of affairs that has Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales which represents around 500 of the country’s independent care providers, fuming.
Mr Kreft said: “We are calling on all fair minded people in local government – and through the good offices of the Welsh Local Government Association – to ensure, as put to the councillors in places like Merthyr, Torfaen and Gwynedd, they need to urgently review their fees.
“A number of other councils deserve credit for committing to conduct urgent reviews of their rates and we trust that they will now also follow suit and do the right thing.
“It is vital that these authorities fulfill their statutory responsibilities and ensure that they act lawfully and set their rates in such a way that they reflect the true cost of providing care for the most vulnerable people in our society.
“If, however, they continue to act unlawfully, it will put more unacceptable pressure on hard-pressed, hard-working families to make up the difference which is unfair at the best of times but totally intolerable during the current cost of living crisis.
“We are in an absurd situation where you can go from North to South Wales and find a person in Flintshire with exactly the same needs and receiving exactly the same service but in Torfaen they receive £11,000 more per person a year for providing it.
“Either the likes of Torfaen are being totally profligate with Council Tax payers money or Flintshire need to step up to the plate and meet their statutory, lawful obligations by recognising the true cost of social care.
“It is frankly unbelievable that in Wales we have 22 local authorities all setting their own fees and we are seeing massive differences in those fees – it means that in most parts of Wales the system is just unsustainable.
“We rightly have national standards that we need to abide to and we need a national framework for setting fees as recommended by the Welsh Government in their White Paper, Rebalancing Care and Support.
“Gwynedd, Torfaen and Merthyr councils deserve praise for doing the right thing in setting fees at a level that is nearer to covering the true cost of care for the sake of the vulnerable people who live in care homes and nursing homes.
“This has certainly ratcheted up the pressure on the remaining North Wales authorities whose position is now completely and demonstrably untenable and unlawful unless they follow suit.
“At the moment the only way providers in places like Flintshire and Wrexham, Denbighshire, Anglesey and Conwy can manage is to go back to the hard-working families of their residents who will suffer financially – it’s a stealth tax.
“How can it be that for providing an identical service in Connah’s Quay you receive £11,000 less per person than you receive in Caerphilly?
“It’s a North-South divide and in the 20-odd years since devolution, the level of fees paid by the North Wales local authorities have gone from top of the league to relegation candidates.
“As a consequence we are seeing care homes closing across Wales because they are not financially viable which is something that is required by law.
Mary Wimbury, the chief executive of Care Forum Wales, said: “We rightly have national standards that are required in terms of the quality of the care provided and the national regulations governing the social care sector.
“What we need now is a complete overhaul of the system and the introduction of a sensible and fair national framework for commissioning a national fee which ensures realistic and sustainable rates that cover the true cost of care and allow providers to properly reward their valued workforce.
“This is becoming increasingly urgent because the demographics are going in one direction with the recently published census results show that one in five people in Wales are now aged 65 or over.
“Our network of care homes and domiciliary care providers provide essential support for the NHS.
“Without that scaffolding, the burden on an already stretched NHS with hospitals bursting at the seams will become even more intolerable and the whole system could collapse like a house of cards.”