You couldn’t make it up. Elderly and disabled people are being ‘put up for auction’ by local councils on ‘eBay-style’ websites, with care firms then bidding to offer them a place.
Their ages, their care needs and the medications they take are being listed, with care homes invited to place bids. At least a dozen Councils are doing it, including Kent County Council, Devon County Council, Southend Borough Council and Birmingham City Council, with dozens more expected to follow.
Care companies bidding to offer a place have to state what services they can provide and at what cost before a computer system decides which company is the winner of the ‘contract’.
As many as 100 providers can bid before a shortlist of the most favourable bids is produced. Shortlisted bidders are then told where they are ranked in the process. If they are in second position, they can adjust their bid – either by lowering the price or offering extra care services – so that they can move up to first.
Councils say quality is the first consideration, but BBC 5 Live revealed that figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show 92 per cent of care packages commissioned on the system over a six-month period were awarded to the bidder with the lowest price.
Radio 5 Live found that in some cases in Birmingham elderly people were being sent to homes which won the online auction despite being ‘zero-rated’ by the council on its own 0-100 scale of care quality – where scores under 60 are ‘poor’.
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said: ‘Do we really want to treat older people as a product’ to be bought and sold this way? We are concerned that older people’s needs will lose out to price as the main reason for selecting a home.’
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