A legal challenge to the fee rates Essex Council pays to private care home providers has been rejected in court.
Care England issued judicial review proceedings against Essex County Council in October challenging its fee rates for care home providers in 2016/17 (see Care England challenges Essex Council fee rates).
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “It is particularly disappointing that the judge hearing this case formed the view that the councillor who made the decision had carried out a sufficient enough enquiry into the sustainability of the Essex care home market; when that enquiry was based not on the information that had been presented to him by Council officers, but on his own knowledge and assumptions.
“Despite the court’s ruling, Care England remains particularly concerned that the Council’s decision jeopardises the sustainability of the care home market in Essex.”
Care England said the council had decided to pay fees that were on average £163.57 less than its own analysis of the actual cost of residential care and £108.56 below the cost of nursing care.
Care England commented: “At present, there seems to be a divide between the judiciary in their thinking and approaches to deciding cases where local authorities are challenged on how they decide the rates they will pay for residential social care for older people.
“Care England will of course reflect on the court’s decision and how it may further support our members and the much needed structure and clarity that is required in the area.”
Cllr John Spence, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, welcomed the court’s decision, arguing that the judicial review had accepted its argument that its cost of care analysis did not reflect the cost to providers.
Cllr Spence said the council paid in excess of the average cost of care to providers.
“There is no evidence to suggest an issue with market sustainability in Essex,” he added.
“Few homes are closing and if they do it is rarely for financial reasons. Any homes that may have closed are often taken over, demonstrating there is a viable market for providers. An independent assessment carried out by CQC also shows a positive picture in relation to quality with in excess of 80% of providers rated as Good or Outstanding.”