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British Public More Likely To Ask Friends And Family About Care Home Fees – Despite 70% Of Population Not Knowing Themselves

Seeking Professional Advice Lagged Behind Asking Friends, Family and Search Engines – Despite Massive Cost

07.05.2019

Jenny Batchelor, Press Officer | 0207 421 3951

The British public are more likely to ask Google or family and friends about care home fees than seek professional advice, despite 70% admitting they do not know the average annual cost of a care home.

Later life experts at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth are stressing the importance of checking care home contracts after its own research found 46% of 2,100 respondents would ask friends and family about advice on care home fees, when 70% of the same respondents admitted not knowing the average annual cost of a care home.

The second most popular response was asking a search engine at 33%, while 14% of respondents said they didn’t know who to ask and 13% said they would not seek any advice at all before signing – despite the costs running into the tens of thousands of pounds and family homes potentially being at risk if the costs are not met.

Asking a lawyer or independent financial adviser pulled up at third and fourth place respectively at 30% and 24%, but the results were in clear favour of seeking free advice over that of an expert – even though care home contracts can be very costly.

The Money Advice Service website states care home costs can range from £27,000 to £55,000 per year depending on whether or not nursing is required. Additional costs can be incurred for trips away and extra care, including therapies.

The research comes after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) told care homes late last year that they need to be more transparent with their contract terms and practices. The move came following an investigation by the CMA which found families were at risk of being treated unfairly.

In 2018 a study by consumer group Which? found that many residential homes did not provide contracts and when they did residents often didn’t understand the terms before it is signed.

With the UK’s ageing population – the ONS’ latest release on the UK population found 18.2% of the population was aged 65 years or older by mid-2017, compared with 15.9% in 2007 – as well as rising care home fees, experts at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth argue the need to check over care home contracts is greater than ever.

Expert Opinion
“It is very concerning that our findings showed so many people sought advice about care homes from their friends and family or even Google, which is rife with misinformation and open to interpretation, instead of asking a professional about a contract worth tens of thousands of pounds.

“Having a parent or grandparent go into care can be a very tumultuous time for a family. Often there are issued around capacity and the child has to be appointed as a deputy or an LPA is needed. With the stress of it all, often the finances around care are overlooked because that person’s needs are clear.

“However, it’s important to note that someone going into care involves a contract, either between the person and the care home if they have capacity or perhaps you as a deputy. It’s therefore vital to look at these contracts in detail, as they are a very significant outlay, and you may even be liable for extra costs. You wouldn’t get a mortgage without professional advice, so why sign a care home contract without it?”
Kelly Greig, Partner

Kelly advises thoroughly checking over the contracts, and getting a solicitor involved to make sure there are no unfair terms; if the term in a contract is unfair, it will not be valid. Some examples of unfair terms include increasing fees without reasonable notice, burying unfair terms in the small print and the care home limiting its responsibility when something goes wrong, even if they are at fault.

Kelly added: “The care contract should include things like the monthly costs of care and accommodation, details of any advance payments required and any additional fees and charges that might be incurred during the stay.

“The law stipulates that the terms in the contract must not give more rights to the service provider than the consumer, and the terms must be designed in a fair and open way. If you have any concerns this might be the case, you should contact a solicitor to look over the contract.

“You’ll then be in a much better position to negotiate the removal or an amendment to an unfair term at the start of the residency rather than later on, or worse, without any rights at all because there was no contract in the first place.”