A care home provider criticised for “opportunist” fee increases has been accused of withholding funds that effectively mean deceased residents are being charged for accommodation.

The Care Concern Group, which has 44 homes in Scotland and specialises in dementia care, states fees will be liable for up to three days after a death.

However, relatives say weeks of advance charges, in one case more than £6,000, have been withheld at an Edinburgh care home, with some families waiting four months for monies to be refunded.

Hugh McLean’s mother Margaret was a resident at Trinity House, Edinburgh, before her death on November 17 last year.

While Mr McLean said he had no complaints over her care he said the fact £4,000 of fees were taken after she died had added to the family’s distress.

In a letter, published on social media, which he shared with The Herald, he writes: “It is now 120 days or four months since mum’s passing and despite numerous phone calls and emails over the course of that time, Care Concern still hold our funds with no obvious intention to repay them.

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“The length of time taken along with the protracted communication has caused us additional distress at this most difficult time.


“It should be noted that under the care home’s terms and conditions if you are late in paying then an interest  penalty of 3 per cent over Bank of England base rate is applied, some 7% in total – I doubt if we’ll see the same backdated element.”

Mr McLean said he was considering legal action.

However, hours after The Herald contacted the firm, the fees were released to the family.

Reviews on the home’s website show Mr McLean’s experience at Trinity House was not an isolated incident. 

Families have also raised concerns the company is using photographs of elderly residents on its website despite permission being refused.

One relative, posting in January, wrote: “You have taken a full month of fees from her after her death, which we still await the repayment [of]. 

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“The length of time this has taken, the amount of communication that has been required, has caused untold distress to a grieving relative.”

Another posted: “I am offering a review on your relationship with family carer (and former power of attorney) at the time of bereavement. 

“Your contract states that on the death of a relative you only pay for up to three days. 

“However, in my experience you continued to take full payment of over 6.5k for a room we no longer occupied and four months later you have not refunded us the money and are now saying we have to wait a further 40-60 days.

“We also signed the permission agreement that no photos were to be shared of our relative on any of your platforms.

"And yet on the 22nd September, you posted an image of my relative on your social media page when they had died two weeks earlier. 

“This was unprofessional, unethical, and hurtful and we are still awaiting your formal written apology.”

The home manager responded to the online complaints, apologising for the upset and distress caused.

A spokeswoman for Trinity Care Home said she could not comment on individual cases but had escalated Mr McLean’s concerns to the relevant department at the company’s head office.

She said: “This is the first time it has brought to the home’s attention.

"We have escalated this today to the relevant department and we are hoping to have a quick resolve for Mr McLean.”

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The company was criticised by families after announcing a hike in fees last year that added £500 extra a month to bills in some cases.

The son of a 92-year-old woman in one of the firm’s Lanarkshire homes said the 9% increase introduced at some homes would mean her fees had risen by 19% in two years, taking her weekly payment to around £1648.08.

The company said it had invested significantly in safeguards to protect residents from Covid-19 including dedicated visitor rooms, electronic thermometer equipment, additional staff and PPE and testing.

It comes amid growing concern of the disparity between the amount self-funders pay and the amount local authorities are charged under the national care home contract. 

Figures published last year show self-funding care home residents are paying almost £69,000 for accommodation alone in some areas of Scotland.

The Shetland Islands had the second highest rates with self-funders paying £67, 689 on average while Clackmannanshire was among the lowest for fees at just under £40,000, around £11,000 lower than the Scottish average of £51,740.

Elderly people in Glasgow paid £46,072 while in East Renfrewshire the average cost was £46,748 and £64,000 in East Dunbartonshire.

The campaign group Care Home Relatives Scotland said it was also concerned that some care providers were now asking for two months in fees up front as a deposit, more that £10000 in some cases.

Cathie Russell of the group said: “I would appeal to the SNP to look at the whole issue of care home funding as part of the National Care Service reforms.

“The financial exploitation that is going on in many cases is just appalling.

"So far - despite endless statements that the service will be built on the voices of lived experience, Kevin Stewart (Minister for Social Care) had made it abundantly clear to me this is one area that is simply not up for discussion.”

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has said Scotland may not require a National Care Service. In a frank conversation with Reform Scotland thinktank, Kate Forbes said she would look again at her government’s flagship policy. 

The legislation - introduced by leadership rival Humza Yousaf in Holyrood last June - will see the government set up “care boards” directly accountable to the Scottish Ministers who will take on functions and staff that are currently managed and run by local authorities and health boards.

Criticism of the Bill has been mounting in recent months, with MSPs, councils, unions and organisations and carers’ charities all calling for a pause.

Earlier this month, Groups representing staff and users of the new service said the legislation needed “significantly more time.