Aston Brooke has a thriving Civil Litigation department which specialises in representing the Health Care Sector. At present the firm is acting for the Fairer Fee Forum.
The Fairer Fee Forum (FFF) has been formed to be at the forefront of all fee negotiations with all 150 Local Authorities and will repersent care providers in any legal action. The desired outcome of the FFF is to achieve the true cost of care and ensure that all service contracts are altered to included the model to calculate the true cost of care.
The scene was set with a culmination of corporate care providers coupled with medium and small care providers and regional care associations who had all attended to participate in the official launch of the Fairer Fee Forum’s (FFF) initiative to fight for the social care sector to achieve the “true cost for care”.
The Fairer Fee Forum has instructed Aston Brooke Solicitors and Cherie Booth QC of Matrix Chambers to pursue the legal avenues open to challenge local authorities who are consistently paying below the true cost of care.
The conference was opened by Mr Kashif Majeed, Director of Aston Brooke Solicitors who made it clear in no uncertain terms that:
“the time is long gone to negotiate fee increases with the Local Authorities which has been a tried and tested system. Negotiations between local authorities are no longer able to deliver the results the social care sector has been fighting for so long.
I am very proud that my firm is spearheading the legal challenge on behalf of the Fairer Fee Forum and in time will bring about the results that we all desire. We all hope to see dramatic increases in the fees paid by Local Authorities so they come close to paying the “true cost of care”.
Next it was the turn of Ms Booth QC. Ms Booth is a politically high profile QC with extensive experience in public law, both for and against local authorities. Ms Booth has been instructed by the Fairer Fee Forum to represent its interests in the legal challenge. She laid out in her speech a detailed background of the history of the struggle faced by the social care sector in securing a “true cost for care”.
“In my legal career, I have built up experience and expertise in public law so the conduct of public authorities is central to my work.
In particular and with relevance to today’s topic - I have a track record of representing individuals and organisation that have been unfairly treated by public bodies, including in the social care field
Rather than the resident’s needs being the primary concern, it has been widely noted that placements are made routinely in the home with the lowest fees rather than, for example, those with the highest star rating.
In any conflict between cost and quality, cost appears to be the driving force.”
She also made clear that the only viable option for the sector was a legal challenge and after preliminary work carried out by her she was confident that the local authorities “had a clear case to answer”.
“It is possible to for Local Authorities fee assessment to be challenged legally. Local authorities, like central government, have certain legal obligations. They are covered by legislation to ensure that they do not abuse the position of power but it seems clear that abuse is exactly what we are seeing.
There is a strong case to be argued that the PCT and Local Authorities have systematically under paid for the services they are utilising.
That they have abused their dominant purchasing position through fee negotiations which have been grossly unfair and, indeed, carried out merely to show that such negotiations has been met.”
“We are considering mounting a legal challenge to try and end this cycle of exploitation by the local authorities.
Obviously we cannot discuss in detail our case but it would be a public law challenge to the way the local authorities are carrying out their duties under the National Assistance Act 1948 and the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.
We believe there are very strong grounds that such a case would be successful.”