Charity Commission warns Cardiff home

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009
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The only Jewish old age home in Wales has been told it must do more to publicise help for people unable to pay its fees if it is to remain a charity.

Penylan House in Cardiff was informed by the Charity Commission that it had failed to meet the legal requirement to provide “public benefit”.

In a report on the home, the commission noted “the lack of clear information that assistance may be available for those who cannot afford the fees”.

It also found “the absence of a clear, budgeted plan of targeted assistance to help in cases where top-up fees cannot be afforded”.

Penylan House has been given until next summer to come up with a “clear, open and transparent” policy on offering help to those who cannot afford full fees.

The home, which can accommodate 40 residents, was one of the first dozen institutions in England and Wales selected by the Charity Commission to check compliance with new requirements for charity status.

According to recent changes in the law, charities must be able to show that they provide “public benefit” — for example, if they charge fees, they must “demonstrate accessibility” to their services and facilities.

Penylan House charges £700 a week per person for nursing care and £630 a week for residential care. But the local authority will contribute only £500 a week for nursing and £330 a week residential care per resident on a means-tested basis.

The shortfall has to be met either through top-up fees paid by residents and their families, or subsidised by the charity itself.

According to the commission, Penylan House currently spends £40,000 a year on assisting those who cannot pay the full fees, out of an overall annual expenditure of nearly £1,245,000.

In a statement, the Penylan House trustees said they had noted the recommendations and would respond to the commission “in due course”.

But senior Jewish welfare figures did not believe that the commission’s findings in Cardiff would affect their own institutions.

Leon Smith, chief executive of south London home Nightingale, commented: “We have looked at the report very carefully and are not concerned. We don’t see this as a major problem for the sector. Nobody would be precluded from coming to our home because of finance. We make it clear in our literature.”

Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris said: “Our understanding is that the Charity Commission are concerned to ensure that where charities charge for services, they communicate clearly to people that they can use their services, even if they can’t afford to pay for them, and how they can do this.

“We have a clear charging system and have always made it clear that people will not be denied services based on their ability to pay. We work hard to ensure people understand that if they are unable to pay for all of or part of the service they require, that they should discuss this with us and that subsidised rates are available to them.”

However, the new public benefit test could have an impact on fee-charging Jewish independent schools, which will have to demonstrate, for example, that they have a sufficient number of bursaries to help pupils unable to pay the full fees — or that they allow their facilities to be enjoyed by the wider public in some way.

Last updated: 1:55pm, September 10 2009