A Kent care home has been heavily criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after it suddenly raised its fees – and then threatened to evict a vulnerable resident if her family did not pay.
The woman had been living at the home run by Foxley Lodge Care Ltd, in Deal, since 2015. Her monthly fees had not increased, despite the care contract saying the home could increase fees by 5% a year if necessary.
In March 2018, the woman’s family were suddenly sent a bill for more than £3,000 and were told to pay within 14 days. The care home said this was for backdated increases for the preceding two years which it had not previously requested. It said it would charge 2% interest daily if the amount remained outstanding after the initial fortnight.
It said it would increase the woman’s fees by around 10% that month, and planned to increase them again the following month to 25% above what the family had first been paying.
The family complained and said they would pay the 5% increase as per the contract, but would not pay the 25% increase the home demanded.
The Ombudsman investigated the family’s complaint and agreed with the family’s concerns. It recommended the provider stop asking the family for the backdated increase and withdraw its threat to evict the woman for non-payment.
The Ombudsman also asked the care provider to review its contract to ensure it complies with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s guidance and review its complaints handling to ensure complaints are responded to properly.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“Care homes have every right to increase their charges so long as they do so in a fair and accurate way which is in line with both their contracts and the CMA’s guidance.
“Unfortunately, in this case, the family was not warned about the sudden increase in fees, or the lump sum they would have to pay, and were told their relative would be evicted if they did not settle the bill.
“This left the family distressed about the prospect of having to find alternative accommodation for their vulnerable, elderly relative.
“We advocate the benefits of a mature response to complaint handling, where organisations use the learning to improve. So I am particularly disappointed to see Foxley Lodge Care Ltd has failed to respond in a positive way to my investigation.
“We have given the care provider every opportunity to comply with the recommendations, and I now publicly call upon it to consider how it can improve its services to future clients and their families.”
The Ombudsman has shared his findings with care regulator the Care Quality Commission.
Article date: 27 November 2019