Care home residents supported by hand-outs to meet fees

Updated: 
Rising numbers of elderly people are being supported with cash hand-outs from family and friends to meet local authority care home fees. Care home analysts Laing & Buisson says the number of state-funded older care home residents paying top-up fees have risen 4% to 56,000 a year.

But some may be moved if these fees can't be paid - and the distances could be considerable.

Fees pressure

Top-up fees can be paid by family and friends when a home is picked that costs more than the fee a local authority will usually pay. However if top-up cash isn't paid, then care home residents can be switched to cheaper places where fees are lower - sometimes hundreds of miles from friends and family.

The issue of top-up fees affects the poorest and most vulnerable older people, says Age UK, which claims that local authority funding for social care has fallen in real terms since 2010, causing a third of those entitled to state support to scratch around for more cash.

According to Laing & Buisson, on average English councils are paying £480 per week for residential care in 2012/13, approximately £50-£140 less than the 'fair market range' price of £528-£623.


No choice

"Age UK hears from its advice line that in practice people are all too often given no choice but to pay a top-up as there are simply no suitable places available at the local authority's agreed baseline fee rate."

And while Government has committed to implementing a cap on care cost, this may not provide older people with the security they need if contributions towards the cap are calculated on deeply unrealistic rates says Age UK.

Payback?

A toxic mix, says Age UK Charity Director General Michelle Mitchell, "of long term chronic underfunding and more recent austerity cuts to social care budgets is resulting in local authorities stretching their budgets and paying unfeasibly low fee levels to care homes. This in turn undermines the residential care sector, forcing homes to cut costs."

Older people have contributed towards society throughout their lives, adds Mario Ambrosi from Anchor, a not-for-profit provider of housing for older people. "At their time of need they can expect adequate support from the state. It clear that the Government still needs to do more to address the social care funding crisis."

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