Masthead Local Govt - Adult Social

Decisions on care home fees

Social care iStock 000007701832XSmall 146x219The High Court recently rejected a judicial review challenge to a council's decision on care home fees. Claire Booth explains why.

In R (Care England) v Essex CC [2017] EWHC 3035 (Admin) (Admin Ct) Care England (CE), a charity and a representative body for care home operators, applied for judicial review of Essex County Council's decision to increase some of the fees which it paid to the operators of care homes.

CE contended that the council had breached its duty under s.5(1) & (2) of the Care Act 2014 to promote the efficient and effective operation of a market in services for meeting care and support needs, failed to follow government guidance and that the decision was unreasonable.

The court dismissed the application. The council's day-to-day dealings with care home providers and the recent tender exercise provided ample evidence that fee levels for care and support services were appropriate to provide the delivery of the agreed care packages with agreed quality of care. The fact that the seven years without fee increases under the old framework agreements had resulted in few care home closures, and even fewer for financial reasons, was potentially relevant, and the weight to be given to that consideration was a matter for the council.

CE's contention that the council had failed to comply with the Guidance because "the fees are set at a level which was significantly below the actual costs of providing care" used words that were not taken directly from the Guidance; the Guidance was lengthy and detailed and it was neither necessary nor appropriate to interpolate words which were not to be found in it.

CE's case was that there was a certain level of increase which was necessary if the s.5 duty was to be met. What that level was (assuming there was one), and whether it was more or less than the level of the increases decided on in July 2016, was not a judgment which the court could easily make on an application for judicial review, and certainly not on the evidence in this case.

Claire Booth is an associate professional support lawyer at Bevan Brittan. She can be contacted on 0370 194 1705 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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