Call for clearer care costs
Published on 19 September 2013 02:00 PM
Older people and their families need to be given better information about what care costs they may have to pay, consumer campaigners claim.
The call for greater clarity in the sector comes after evidence emerged of a 'widening postcode lottery' across England and Wales.
Which? has been using Freedom of Information requests over the last five years to ask councils in the two countries about what level of home care they provide and at what price.
It discovered varying changes in eligibility and care costs between 2009 and 2013, with around a third of the 100 local authorities polled raising their care charges above the rate of inflation.
Just 31% of authorities now offer weekly caps
Some councils, meanwhile, have scrapped weekly caps that limit how much people have to pay and others have raised the level of the cap so they have to pay more.
Just 31% of authorities now offer weekly caps, down from 66% five years ago. At the same time, the average cap has shot up from £245 per week to £297.50.
In light of these findings, Which? is urging the Government to make sure older people and their families get better information and advice about the care they are entitled to and how much they will need to pay.
'Our research starkly exposes the postcode lottery of home care provision,' commented Which? executive director Richard Lloyd.
'With limited resources and changes being introduced through the Care Bill, it has never been more important for people to get the best possible advice and information about the help they can expect.'
Underfunding of social care 'having a devastating impact'
Of the 152 councils polled, 80% now restrict care to those whose needs are classed as 'critical' or 'substantial' - up from just over 70% in 2009.
Someone's needs are deemed to be critical if there is a potential threat to life, they have significant health problems, or are unable to carry out vital everyday tasks like washing or dressing.
If their needs are termed substantial, this means they are unable to perform most everyday routines or have little support.
Liz Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says:
‘As the cost of care continues to rise we fear that many older people will simply decide that they cannot afford care support and will struggle on alone with the possibility of a disastrous result.
‘Most older people needing care are on a fixed and often low income so they will find it difficult to find the extra cash for even a modest price rise. Care should not be just about keeping people safe, it must enable individuals to live dignified and fulfilled lives.
‘The postcode lottery of care is unfair. By the time older people need to buy care services they are less able to move area to access better services and this new research shows that they may be stuck with vastly different levels of care from one borough to the next.
‘The underfunding of social care is already having a devastating impact on frail older people and their families. More and more are having to pay a greater share of the cost of social care, either because they have been pushed out of the system as a result of tightened eligibility thresholds or because of increased fees and charges. This is an area of real concern.'
Copyright Press Association 2013