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Victory For The Care Homes In Council Fees Court CaseIt seems that there are always too many disagreements between care homes and local councils who have to come together to agree about the standard fees which are payable for council funded residents. Given the current economic climate in the public sector austerity can only make the situation worse. A typical example of this has been provided by Devon County Council (DCC) which has taken the decision to freeze fees for the 2011/12 financial year for the second year in a row. It is a given that care homes in Devon have been taking a hit at the same rate of cost inflation as everybody so it isn't surprising that a group of five care homes have decided to take action against the DCC's for its high-handed action by seeking a judicial review.
Consequently, the outcome of the case was a ruling in favour of the care home providers on the grounds that there had not been enough consultations about fee levels and the DCC was ordered to pay them £40,000 within 21 days as one of the first steps towards refunding over 50% of the claimants' costs. Lawyers who are experts in this field believed that the DCC had acted unlawfully in failing to enter into discussions with providers about the way care home fees are set. Despite the fact that the care home providers were not keen to seek legal action, their action was finally rewarded by the judgement which represented a crucial victory for a group who were brave enough to take a risk in taking legal action to try to maintain the quality of care they are able to give to vulnerable residents. It also further stated that the fees setting process should in future be a two-way discussion.
The Devon judgement follows in the footsteps of similar outcomes in Pembrokeshire and Leicestershire and further illustrates that local councils can be held accountable for unlawful practices. This trend signifies that the weight of argument over fees is falling back in the favour of the care home providers who are accommodating council funded residents and should allow them to recover some of the lost ground that has come as a result of cost inflation over the last year or two.
By: Brendan Wilde
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