Care home costs soar 10% in two years

Private care home costs are soaring, up 9.3% in the last two years. The average cost of a room in a care home is now more than double the average pensioner income. That means an annual shortfall of £14,568, according to new research.

Which means UK pensioners need an extra £247 each week to fund care home costs. How sustainable is this?

Cheaper 'up north'

Since 2012 the average annual cost of a single room in a residential care home has risen by £963 from £27,404 to £28,367. That's £2,414 higher than in 2011, according to data from Prestige Nursing+Care. Meanwhile pensioners' annual income has grown 4.5% (£591) in the last year to £13,799, so the gap between income and care expenses widens.

"The South East became the most expensive region for elderly care homes this year, overtaking the South West with an annual cost of £32,048," says the report. "A room in the South East is £7,405 more per year than in the North East where prices are lowest. The North East also boasts the smallest care cost gap of £10,602, which is almost £7,000 less than the biggest care cost gap of £17,579 in the South West."

Wales saw the biggest yearly hike in the difference between cost and income, rising 29% to £15,516 from £12,064 last year. The East of England was the only region to see a cut in the care cost gap, falling from £17,004 to £15,699.

Cap won't cover

Home care is a more cost-effective option than residential care, and can be right for most but all the most severe cases says Jonathan Bruce from Prestige Nursing+Care. "Even this though can still amount to a considerable bill over the years. We need to ensure the population are care cost-savvy so better financial planning can take place earlier on in life."

Tens of thousands of UK families continue to top up care home charges to look after their elderly. The government's mooted £72,000 cap on lifetime care expenses will not put an end to such top-up fees - basically an 'invisible' subsidy.

Worse, there remains huge confusion across councils about their precise obligations and legal duties to their elderly. A recent report by charity Independent Age estimated some 56,000 British families continue to pay care home top-up expenses.

"Independent Age regularly receives calls from relatives who are concerned that they
are being asked to pay top-up fees because a council has told them it is required for any care,
not because they have requested a higher standard of care."

Not allowed

The charity went on: "Often these relatives are told that the council will only pay a 'standard rate', [but] when they explore potential local care homes, they discover that none has a suitable and available place that is within this standard rate, and that a top-up is therefore required."

When told by Independent Age that councils are not allowed to do this, some continue to pay a top-up rather than complain says the charity. "But others do complain and many find that the council changes its mind and agrees to pay the full cost when challenged."

Prestige Nursing+Care figures

Seven retirement nightmares

Seven retirement nightmares