Following a lengthy investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its new consumer law guidance for care homes on 16th November. The publication aims to protect consumers from “unfair care home practices and secretive fees” and has been welcomed by care minister Caroline Dinenage who said “It is a scandal some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being taken for a ride by a minority of unscrupulous care home providers. Everyone living in a care home should be treated fairly and with respect”.
The CMA has stated that care home operators will need to embed the guidance into their businesses in order to be compliant with consumer law and warns that those that fail to do so could face action from local Trading Standards teams which could lead to criminal prosecutions and compensation.
Read on to find out how you can avoid prosecution by ensuring your service is compliant with this important new guidance
The new CMA publication details the information you must provide to potential residents and family members as well as offering guidance on how to ensure your contract terms are fair. It warns providers of the need for ‘clear, accurate, prominent and timely, up front information’ such as including details of costs on your website so that potential residents can make informed decisions based on accurate information.
Of particular significance is the requirement that care home providers ‘should explain all the key information at the beginning of their first visit to a home (i.e. before they are shown around) and ensure that they are provided with the key information in written form to take away’. To be compliant with this requirement, your staff must know exactly what information they need to provide to any potential client who views your home.
Be CMA Compliant by Providing the Following Information to Every Potential Client
- Funding arrangements: whether or not you accept self-funded and state-funded clients.
- Key features of your service
- The type of care needs you cover e.g. nursing, residential, dementia.
- An overview of the rooms, facilities and services available.
- The size of the home e.g. how many beds it has.
- A brief description of your staffing arrangements.
- Highlight particularly surprising or important terms and conditions. This may include any terms in your contract relating to:
- A requirement for self-funding clients to show that they can pay for their care for a minimum period.
- How self-funded clients’ fees may change during their stay.
- When the clients might need a ‘guarantor’ for their fee payments.
- Fees and charges
- An accurate indication of the total weekly fee that you typically charge people paying for their own care, for each type of care you offer.
- What services are included in your weekly fees and any optional extra services which may need to be paid for separately.
- Any significant other charges that may be unavoidable for some residents because of their circumstances, such as escorts to hospital appointments.
- Details of any upfront payments you ask for (which must be fair), such as any deposit, what this protects against and how it will be protected and refunded.