SCORES of care homes in south and west Wales will go bust and be forced to close unless there is a significant increase in funding from local councils.

That’s the grim warning from Mohammad Mazhar Ali, who runs Wellcome Care Homes in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Caerphilly.

Mr Ali painted a bleak picture of the challenges providers face in trying to balance the books.

Things were so bad that his company had pulled the plug on £7m plans to open a fourth care home with 96 beds in Llanwenog on the Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire border which would have created 150 jobs.

In Wales, the fees and the pay rates for carers are determined by local councils who used set formulas to calculate them.

As a result, many carers are condemned to living on the minimum wage and he fears a lot of them will turn their back on the sector and look for better paid jobs elsewhere.

He also fears homes may reluctantly have to turn away potential residents with significant needs if there is not a shift from a 'one size fits all' approach to funding which does not take into account the dependency levels of individuals.

Mr Ali says the challenges facing his homes have intensified following Covid-19 outbreaks, which have affected the health of a number of residents.

He is calling for a radical overhaul of the fee system and wants far more funding to be provided to meet the ever-increasing demands placed on providers.

Mr Ali, 52, said homes have a legal obligation to provide care for individuals under the Social Services Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014.

But he is frustrated by the fact that local authorities do not vary the fees paid based upon dependency levels.

His concerns have been heightened by the impact of Covid outbreaks at the homes.

Wellcome Care Homes director Mazhar Ali

Wellcome Care Homes director Mazhar Ali

He added: "People are now coming into homes who are more frail and have complex needs.

"If somebody has a high level of need then this is clearly going to cost more.

"We have had Covid outbreaks at our homes. Although we have come the other side and thankfully the majority of our residents have survived, many are not the same as before.

"Their level of dependency has increased. This results in extra staffing costs.

"However, we do not get any extra funding to cover these increases in costs.

"If there is not a change then I can see care homes saying somebody is too frail to take them on. The system needs to be changed.

"I am calling on the Welsh Government to step in and help ensure carers can be paid a minimum of £11 per hour, recognising the importance of their work and the long hours they put in. Ideally they would be paid even more than that."

Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said: “The First Minister rightly pointed out that social care was in a very fragile state even before the pandemic began.

“The reason the sector is so chronically underfunded is that we have had local authorities managing the market for a generation, particularly in relation to care homes, and it was a disaster from the word go because they put cost before quality.

“As a result, social care has always been treated as a poor relation and a Cinderalla service.

“We need a radically different approach to the way we fund social care otherwise the situation will never get better."