A Council in Wales has been hit with a high court writ to recover unpaid care home fees it owes.
Gwynedd Council is reported to owe a large sum to a private care home service provider. Meddyg Care Dementia Homes is taking Debt Collection action against the council after it ignored a judgement made by Northampton Small Claims Court.
The council failed to act on a County County Court Judgment issued in April ordering it to repay £44,529.46. The debt had accrued for unpaid care home fees since March 2021 at Meddyg Care’s establishment in Criccieth.
The high court writ gives High Court Enforcement Officers the power to seize assets at Gwynedd Council to sell and repay the debts owed. It also allows for payment of enforcement costs plus interest if the council does not comply and pay the outstanding bill.
Gwynedd Council told the Cambrian News they “strongly dispute any claim that the council’s responsibility to the frail and vulnerable people of Gwynedd is in any way compromised”.
Care Forum Wales (CFW) said the case was the first of its kind in Wales and demonstrated a gross and unlawful abuse of the council’s responsibilities to frail and vulnerable people in its communities.
According to CFW, the case is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and provided blatant evidence councils were ignoring official guidelines that state they must “take into account the legitimate current and future costs faced by provider”.
Kevin Edwards, managing director of Meddyg Care, said Gwynedd’s fees covered just 28 hours of personal care for its clients per week – when most required ‘in excess’ of 44 hours.
The 43-year-old, from Porthmadog, said he had been forced to invest £700,000 of personal funds last year to sustain the home in the future without sufficient financial support from the council.
“We never thought it would go this far but enough was enough. Effectively, all they are doing is depriving vulnerable people within our community of the necessary funds to pay for their care,” he said.
“I want to ask for a vote of no confidence in the health and social care department of Gwynedd Council as clearly they are not looking out for the people in our community, especially the vulnerable who have dementia and need specialist support.
“One of Care Inspectorate Wales’ regulations is that you have to run a business which is financially sound. We were going to operate at a loss if we accepted their fee – it was significantly lower than what we needed.
“We had six months of correspondence between ourselves and the council and we tried to engage and demonstrate our costs. They refused to accept it and it left us with no choice to launch legal proceedings in the small claims court.
“I feel very sad we’ve had to go down this route to get the appropriate fee but sadly it’s not an exceptional case. The general public need to know how they are abusing these providers.”
Mr Edwards said Gwynedd Council had offered Meddyg Care a fee of £683.90 per client per week which fell far short of what was needed to cover their true costs.
Mario Kreft, Chair of CFW, said the court’s judgement backed up what they had been saying for a long time – that underfunding across the sector was unlawful and driving many homes out of business.
“Local authorities in Wales have received an additional £36.5million to meet the extra costs of paying staff the Real Living Wage. Why then, in North Wales, are they refusing to pass on this extra funding to the frontline of social care?” he said.
“Our care workers deserve every penny of this uplift for putting their lives on the line during the pandemic and for the fantastic job they continue to do to protect the vulnerable.
“I applaud Meddyg Care’s courage for bringing these legal proceedings and shaming these decision-makers for failing to do the right thing. We have been saying for a long time that fees are unrealistic and unsustainable and I am glad the law agrees.”
A Gwynedd Council spokesperson said: “Gwynedd’s residential and nursing fees are set in collaboration with other local authorities across north Wales, using the latest information from providers amongst other factors. The fees paid are consistent across providers, and based on evidence of the real cost of care, whilst providing value for public money.
“As all care providers and Care Forum Wales are aware, Gwynedd residential and nursing fees for 2022/23 have been set in-line with the regional work. However, the Council has committed to further work during the first few months of this financial year (2022-23), in order to evaluate the affordability and sustainability of paying a higher fee to providers.
“As a council, we strongly dispute any claim that the council’s responsibility to the frail and vulnerable people of Gwynedd is in any way compromised.”