'Confusing' care homes are criticised by watchdog

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The £8bn care-home industry has confusing prices, unclear complaints procedures and unfair contracts, the Office of Fair Trading said. A 10-month investigation by the OFT published yesterday showed vulnerable elderly people and their families were often confronted with a bewildering "maze" of information about residential homes.

The £8bn care-home industry has confusing prices, unclear complaints procedures and unfair contracts, the Office of Fair Trading said. A 10-month investigation by the OFT published yesterday showed vulnerable elderly people and their families were often confronted with a bewildering "maze" of information about residential homes.

Two-thirds of people funding their care-home places themselves were burdened with unclear or unfair contract terms relating to the fees they were being charged, the report said. Researchers also found a lack of consistency in help from local authorities to people needing a funded care-home place.

More than 400,000 older people are in 15,700 private, voluntary and local authority homes in Britain. Fees range from £280 to more than £700 a week, with the average resident paying £380 a week. Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes Association, said the sector was already over-regulated and did not need further rules.

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