Care home operators are to be banned from forcing grieving families to pay accommodation charges for weeks after their relative dies.
Ministers have told firms they must remove the hidden fees – which can reach thousands of pounds – with the threat of legislation if they fail to ditch unscrupulous practices.
The warning that they must overhaul their contracts comes after the Government’s market regulator revealed that they may be breaking the law by failing to tell families they could have to pay so-called death fees for up to a month.
Caroline Dinenage MP, the care minister, said last night: ‘While there are lots of great businesses out there, far too many care home residents have been subject to hidden fees, and I am grateful to the Daily Mail for highlighting these issues.
‘The measures we announced will put the power back into the hands of residents and their families.
‘However, if improvements are not seen we won’t hesitate to change the law to strengthen protections so people can be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.’
The Department of Health and Social Care’s package of measures to improve consumer protections includes ensuring that contracts are fair, easily accessible and that residents and their families understand all of the terms.
In January, one major care home firm dropped death fees after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which carried out a study into the industry’s sharp practices last year, threatened to take action.
Last week a report by consumer watchdog Which? found that fewer than one in ten homes contacted on the premise of looking for care for an elderly relative were happy to send over their contracts in advance.
It said there was a danger that firms were breaking the law by neglecting to tell residents about expensive hidden terms and conditions.
The Government is also considering introducing a kitemark accreditation scheme so families know if a residential care home has met the new standards and offers a fair and clear contract.
The CMA has previously warned that middle-class care home residents are being fleeced with over-the-top fees because town halls refuse to pay the market rate for poorer people’s care.
Source Credit: Daily Mail