Older people forced to pay for 'free' residential care
Published on 08 April 2013 12:01 AM
More than 1 in 4 older people who qualify for free residential care are now forced to turn to friends and family to find additional top-up money to stay in their care home.
According to care home analysts Laing & Buisson, the number of care home residents who are in local authority-funded accommodation and are now paying top-up fees has risen to 56,000 - representing 28% of the total number of 199,000.
Poorest and most vulnerable at risk
The reason this is such shocking news is that most care home residents who receive local-authority funding have been assessed as having substantial or critical needs and have assets of less than £14,250.
This means that the the top-up fee issue is hitting the poorest and most vulnerable people hardest.
Family or friends are only supposed to pay top-up fees when a resident voluntarily chooses accommodation that costs more than the original care home offered by the local authority.
Unfortunately, in practice, Age UK understands that many residents are not offered any suitable accommodation that fits into a local authority's baseline fee rate.
Age UK's Charity Director-General, Michelle Mitchell said: 'The underfunding of social care is having a disastrous impact on frail older people and their families.
'A toxic mix 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.'
Possible illegal practice
There are even situations where certain local authorities have acted unlawfully, by setting a baseline fee which is too low to pay any residential home fees in the area.
This leaves older people and their families with no alternative but to pay top-up fees.
The Government must do more
Michelle Mitchell has called on the Government to address this issue urgently. 'Above all, Age UK urges the Government to acknowledge and act upon the gaping hole in social care funding in England, which is jeopardising the quality of care for the country's most vulnerable and poorest pensioners.
'These problems are a direct result of there simply being insufficient money in the social care system. As local authority spending on social care for older people continues to fall, the gap in social care funding grows.'