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Conwy Council accused of paying its own care homes 57% more than private homes

CONWY has been accused of ‘breath-taking hypocrisy’ for paying their own care homes 57% more than independent homes providing the same level of care. 

Social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) say they were shocked to discover the difference, following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Conwy County Council. 

The question was submitted to the council by the owner of the 22-bed Woodcroft Care Home in Old Colwyn, Andrew Snook, who is also a member of the CFW. 

Care Forum Wales. Andy Snook; Manager of Woodcroft residential home in Colwyn Bay (pic: Mandy Jones)

The authority’s response showed they had earmarked a budget of approximately £1,136 per resident per week at the council-owned Llys Elian care home in Colwyn Bay. 

In contrast, the council were only paying just over half of that amount – £721 – towards the care costs of the vulnerable residents in privately-run care homes in Conwy. 

According to CFW, that means the council gave themselves over £20,000 more per resident this year than they paid to an independent care home. 

The CFW calculates that, in a 40-bed care home, the amount would equate to a difference of more than £800,000 a year in funding.  

According to Mr Snook, the disparity in fees highlighted by the FOI request showed that Conwy had effectively created a two-tier system. 

“It shines a light on the fact that the council’s own figures show it realises that the true costs of care are way in excess of the amount it pays to the independent care homes. But it is doing nothing about that gaping difference,” said Mr Snook.  

Care Forum Wales says the deepening crisis in social care is the worst in living memory and that chronic underfunding poses even more of a threat to the sector than Covid did. 

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The chairman, Mario Kreft MBE, said: “What’s happening in Conwy is shameless, breathtaking hypocrisy on a municipal scale. The fact that councillors can claim a meal allowance of up to £28 a day when the totally flawed toolkit used by Conwy only allocates around £5 a day to feed their residents is just adding insult to injury. 

“It is astonishing that a councillor can claim more per day than someone who requires residential care in a registered care home.” 

Recent weeks have seen four care homes in North Wales – Trewythen Hall in Gresford, Bay Court in Kinmel Bay, Gwastad Hall in Cefn y Bedd, and Morfa Newydd in Greenfield –  either close or enter the process of shutting, a combined loss of 163 beds. 

The CFW says more care home closures are inevitable unless urgent action is taken to fund social care properly. 

Clive Nadin is the owner of the 29-bed Abbey Dale Care Home in Colwyn Bay and a member of Care Forum Wales and said Conwy Council was miscalculating its entire care sector budget. 

Mr Nadin conducted an analysis of the figures secured by Mr Snook for the 27-bed Llys Elian service. 

“Using Conwy’s occupancy rate of 95%, I have calculated the costs for 2021/22 at £1,136.98 per resident per week,” said Mr Nadin.   “In contrast Conwy currently pays the independent sector £721 for the same level of care – that is only just under two-thirds of what they know Elderly, Mentally Infirm residential care actually costs. 

“The difference is not just scandalous but unsustainable. The system cannot continue to survive like this.”

Mr Snook received the results of his FOI request shortly after delivering a passionate address to the council’s finance and resources overview and scrutiny committee. 

He told councillors: “This is an appalling state of affairs. I found it an insult that during this year you allocated us a £7 increase per resident per week to cover extraordinary inflation. That’s £1 a day for the work we do. You need to look at yourselves. I’d be embarrassed if I were you.” 

He issued a direct invitation to councillors to visit him and his staff at Woodcroft Care Home, where he and his team provide 24/7 care for people living with dementia. 

He said: “The care of the vulnerable elderly in Conwy is facing its worst crisis ever. Already numerous homes across north Wales have closed, and I seriously fear many others will not be able to survive.” 

The result is families of vulnerable and infirm individuals have to pay top-up fees of hundreds of pounds a month which they can ill afford. 

Mr Snook added: “It’s in fact a stealth tax on the residents of Conwy, who are already tackling ever higher energy costs, food price rises, and soaring costs of living.” 

“This is at a time when we are all facing huge costs of living rises. Our staff wages are going up, as are pensions contributions and national insurance costs. 

“Maintenance of our buildings and equipment is increasing and we are in a position where we cannot just turn the heat down to save money. Our residents cannot skip meals to save on food costs.”

Cllr Penny Andow, Conwy’s cabinet member for integrated adult and community services, said: “Conwy County Borough Council is completely transparent regarding the cost of running Llys Elian.  However, we dispute the analysis made by Care Forum Wales and the conclusions drawn. 

“This is not the first time that these providers have sought to make these comparisons.  Following challenge by Care Forum Wales previously, these providers were part of a working group established to look at Llys Elian cost and its place in the Conwy care home market. 

“Out of the 71 care homes in Conwy, Llys Elian is the only council-run care home. All the other care homes are independent sector-run care homes. They agreed that Llys Elian was a valuable facility as a centre of excellence in dementia care, and that it was too risky for the council not to have any council-run care homes. 

“The Welsh Government agenda is to re-balance the care home market in Wales and ensure there is a mixed economy of independent, third sector, and council-run care homes to provide resilience in the care home market. 

“Currently Conwy is unusual in having only one council-run care home.  As a result of this reliance on the external care home provision, Conwy County Borough Council has supported the independent sector, and therefore we are perplexed by Care Forum Wales’s accusation of hypocrisy. 

“We find it odd that Care Forum Wales has not undertaken an analysis of the other 22 Local Authorities in Wales in relation to their council-run care homes but have focused on Conwy which has only one council-run care home.” 

She added: “As Care Forum Wales and these providers already know, Conwy County Borough Council has already committed to undertaking a review of care home fees, working with private providers on transparency in relation to their running cost in order to present evidence to Welsh Government for additional funding for care homes. This work is now starting, and we are looking forward to working with care homes in relation to their costs.”