A council has been awarded a giant wooden spoon for paying the lowest care home fees in Wales and refusing to hand out free personal protective equipment even though it’s been paid for by the Welsh Government.

According to social care champions Care Forum Wales (CFW), Denbighshire County Council deserve to be named and shamed because they are  “literally the lowest of the low in terms of their meanness of spirit which would even make Ebenezer Scrooge blush with embarrassment”.

An investigation by CFW revealed that the six North Wales local authorities were at the bottom of the league table for paying the lowest rates for residential care.

According to the Chair, Mario Kreft MBE, it was clear that they were operating a fee-fixing cartel because the lowest five were paying exactly the same amount, £711.83 per person, per week for fully regulated care.

The only exception in North Wales was last year’s wooden spoon recipient Flintshire County Council which pays marginally more, £727.55, placing the authority sixth from bottom.

It all adds up, says Mr Kreft, to a growing North-South divide with the betrayal of elderly and vulnerable care home residents in Denbighshire and the rest of North Wales who are being treated with “utter contempt”.

As a result, a care home in Denbighshire receives £10,432 less per resident, per year than a care home in parts of South Wales.

In a 50-bed care home that’s a difference of more than £500,000 a year for providing exactly the same level of service and being subjected to the same regulations.

Mr Kreft  said: “We could have given the wooden spoon, which recognises the meanest local authority which pays the lowest residential care home fees, to any one of five North Wales councils because they are joint bottom of the league of shame.

“Last year it was awarded to Flintshire who are slightly out of the frame this year and this year it’s Denbighshire who deserve to be branded as the Scrooge council, although it must be said that the fees in Flintshire are still abysmally low.

“What tipped the balance was that Denbighshire Council is the only North Wales council to turn down the offer of free PPE from the Welsh Government who recognised the importance of protecting vulnerable people and staff in care homes. It’s an open and shut case.

“Members of the Senedd, particularly those who represent North Wales, should not turn a blind eye to this injustice.

“When you look at care homes in Denbighshire, they are almost without exception small and medium-sized local businesses – family-run organisations like most of our economy in North Wales.

“They provide crucial services to their communities, often reflecting the local culture and language , as well as providing vital support to families in the run up to Christmas so the way they are being treated is truly shameful.

“Care homes in Denbighshire are being denied the opportunity to have the free PPE that the Welsh Labour Government want them to have and they’re being denied by a Labour run county council.

“The public in Denbighshire need to ask what the Dickens is going on because the Leader of the council, Cllr McLellan, and his chief executive, Mr Boase, are behaving like latter day Scrooges.

“How is it that the older, vulnerable people in Denbighshire – people who have given so much to this country – are demoted to the bottom of the pile, especially after all we’ve been through with Covid. It’s totally unacceptable.

“If you live or work in a care home in Denbighshire you will know that Covid has not gone away even if most of the world thinks it has.

“This about the Welsh Labour Government saying, after all the analysis by the Chief Medical Officer and by all of the other experts, that Covid is still with us and it’s a very nasty, infectious disease that still has the potential to kill, particularly if you’re elderly and vulnerable.

“I don’t understand why a Labour local authority is refusing to provide care homes in the area with free PPE that’s been paid for by the Welsh Government.

“This is a total betrayal of vulnerable people because these are the very people who should matter most to us, particularly at this time of year.

“What you’re seeing in Wales is a North-South divide. If you are old and vulnerable, you’re very lucky if you live in South Wales while those in Denbighshire are the unluckiest.

“These are statutory services and the law clearly says that the fees paid by local councils and health boards should reflect the true cost of care.

“But Denbighshire is brazenly ignoring its legal obligations to these people and acting unlawfully because the fees they pay come nowhere near the actual cost.

“It’s also institutional prejudice against the private sector who actually enable the NHS to function and if you haven’t got somewhere to discharge hospital patients the whole system will come to a grinding halt.

“Domiciliary care is also struggling financially because of irresponsibly low fees at a time when recruiting and retaining staff is more difficult than it’s ever been.

“All of which means that social care is in the eye of a perfect storm  and Denbighshire have chosen this moment to decide not to hand out or find a distribution point for people to get the PPE that the Welsh Government has provided.

“It’s a total disgrace and the wooden spoon has gone to an authority that has shown utter contempt for older people who need to be in a care home along with those who cared for them through the most hideous global pandemic.

“Denbighshire County Council is the lowest of the low and shamefully deserving of this year’s Care Forum Wales Wooden Spoon Award.”

Residential Care Home Fees 2023-4

Rating Region Local Authority Weekly Fee
1 Cardiff & Vale Cardiff £912.29
2 Gwent Torfaen £862.84
3 West Wales Ceredigion £827.00
4 Cardiff &Vale Vale of Glamorgan £820.50
5 Gwent Blaenau Gwent £814.00
6 Gwent Newport £806.20
7 West Wales Pembrokeshire £805.30
8 Gwent Monmouthshire £805.00
9 Swansea Bay Swansea £800.00
10 Gwent Caerphilly £798.93
11 West Wales Carmarthenshire £797.92
12 Cwm Taf Morgannwg Merthyr Tydfil £794.00
13 Swansea Bay Neath Port Talbot £792.00
14 Powys Powys £778.00
15 Cwm Taf Morgannwg Bridgend £775.00
16 Cwm Taf Morgannwg Rhondda Cynon Taf £772.00
17 North Wales Flintshire £727.55
18-22 North Wales Ynys Mon £711.83
  North Wales Conwy £711.83
  North Wales Denbighshire £711.83
  North Wales Gwynedd £711.83
  North Wales Wrexham £711.83
All Wales average   £800.02
Annual difference between highest and lowest per resident   £10,432.92
Annual difference for a 50-bed care home   £521,646.00