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09 Dec 2021

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Better to rock the boat than walk the plank

By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON

There’s no escaping them; for me, reflections of the injustice of care home fees are unavoidable – even in the unlikely setting of the Racing Post, the bible of the horse racing community. A recent column deplored the “fear-induced code of silence” that has caused players in and observers of racing to turn a blind eye to unethical practices in the bloodstock industry – “perhaps because so many of them profit from a discredited system”.

So what, you may say. Well, these people aren’t the only ones looking the other way. Earlier this month, a company specialising in “retirement products” drew attention to the chasm-like discrepancy between fees for council- and self-funded care home residents. A revelation that was somewhat diminished by the fact that the source of their data was a CMA report published in 2017 – maybe they had been sleeping the sleep of the just (pun intended). But fair dos, while undoubtedly promoting their own cause, they were actually shining a (belated) light on an uncomfortable truth.

I have just come upon an account of a care home group that has seemingly discovered the secret of turning base metal into gold. Based on an equal mix of publicly and privately funded residents (widely regarded as a profoundly challenging model), these alchemists claim to be generating extremely healthy margins – implicitly, by seeking hefty cross-subsidies from self-funders.

It’s anything but new – LaingBuisson identified the phenomenon of these “super-profits” back in 2015. And it certainly isn’t news. Regarding which, the experience of the Racing Post could help explain the shameful silence of the care sector press on this form of abuse. When the Post published details of the scandal, bloodstock agents tried to turn off the paper’s life support by cancelling their advertising.

Representative bodies are never going to call out their members for shafting self-funders. These defenders of the indefensible have spent the past few years building a Potemkin village around their questionable practices, to the point where they have now succeeded in normalising the exploitation of private-payers. They might, however, see the value of preemptive action … say, encouraging the rank and file to agree a measure of self-denial. Before their hands are forced by legislation – perhaps something similar to the system in Germany where individual providers cannot charge differential rates to people receiving the same service.

In my view, those who know but don’t tell are also complicit, as guilty as the actual perpetrators. Back to the Racing Post column. Its first line read: “Sometimes, in order for things to change, it takes good people to speak out.” My hearing aids are turned to max, but I still can’t hear them.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

2 Replies to “Better to rock the boat than walk the plank”

  1. I agree with the sentiments but suspect many providers would respond that cross-subsidy is the only way they can continue to maintain quality standards and offer places for people reliant on local authority funding. This will be the case as long as the current system goes unreformed and local authorities continue to be under-funded. Readers may care to note that at a King’s Fund event last week that looked at social care funding, Lord Forsyth, a Conservative peer and Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee, called this situation inequitable; made the case for social care to be properly funded by the state at the point of need, like the NHS; and called on the Treasury to write a cheque for £8bn (by the Committee’s calculations, the true cost of doing this).

  2. I’m sure you’re correct about the providers. Then again, initially they claimed that there were no such things as cross-subsidies – and some of them still do!

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