A care home in Kent has been heavily criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for suddenly raising its fees and then threatening to evict a vulnerable resident if her family did not pay.
The family of the woman who had been living at the Foxley Lodge Care Ltd home in Deal since 2015 complained when they were sent a bill in March 2018 for more than £3,000 and told to pay within 14 days.
The family of the woman, whose monthly fees had not increased despite her care contract saying they could rise by 5% a year, was told the bill was for backdated increases covering the last two years, which it had not previously requested.
The home 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.”
CHP has contacted Foxley Lodge Care Ltd for a response.