CARE homes must focus on improving standards as council funding is unlikely to increase soon.

That’s the message from Kevin Gunputh, chairman of the Dorset Care Homes Association and managing director of LuxuryCare, which runs three ‘outstanding’ rated homes and one ‘good’.

He said the association is now using its expertise to help struggling homes improve their care provision despite the burden of rising costs.

"Some people seem to think that if we keep knocking on the council's door someone is going to answer with a big heap of money, but there is no money," he said.

"The industry is going through a very difficult transition at the moment.

"We are trying to improve quality, providing better training and mentoring services for homes which are struggling.

"With better management they can spend less on recruitment and advertising, spend less on agencies, and they will have more to invest in the fabric of the building. We are trying to streamline services to make them more effective."

He added: "We are still knocking on the door of local government for increased funds."

Mr Gunputh said councils pay homes around £550 a week for a resident with dementia, who may require round-the-clock care. The true cost, he said, is nearer £750.

"We are just expecting them to be fair," he said. "We didn't see much of an increase from the social care precept.

"I am optimistic. I think the Government will eventually have to increase funding in social care. There has got to be a fundamental change at a national level."

He said pressures facing the industry include the living wage, pension increases, tougher regulations and old fashioned management styles.

While there is investment in new care homes many of these in Dorset are at the higher end of the market due to high land values and build costs.

Also, he said, councils have begun placing residents at cheaper failing homes, as long as there is an improvement plan in place, providing those homes with less incentive to compete.