Thousands of care home residents told to pay more or move out because of squeeze on council budgetsPosted on:
Soaring numbers of elderly people are being forced to rely on handouts from friends and family to stay in care homes near their loved ones. Care Home Funding Advocates follows the story;
Councils facing squeezed budgets are increasingly looking to move residents to cheaper homes, which often means they are passed ‘like parcels’ to alternatives hundreds of miles away.
A third of those who are entitled to state help with care home fees – perhaps because they have exhausted their life savings on such bills – are being forced to meet spiralling costs themselves, charity Age UK said.
If they fail to top up their council funding, care home residents can be moved to cheaper homes – potentially in a different local authority – where their fees can be paid by the council in full.
Elderly people living in England qualify to have all their care home fees covered by their local authority when their assets drop below £14,250, and if their needs are severe enough.
According to the figures, 56,000 elderly people – nearly a third of those entitled to have their care home fees paid in full last year – were forced to turn to relatives for help with topping up care home bills – a 4 per cent jump on the previous year.
In theory these extra payments, ranging from £50 to £140 a week, should only be demanded by local authorities to allow people to stay in the home of their choice.
But Age UK warns hard-up councils are increasingly insisting families have no choice but to pay the top-up fees if they want their loved ones to stay in the same area. In some cases, elderly people are being sent hundreds of miles away from the area they have lived all their lives.
Councils are increasingly seeking to find cheaper care options for residents because of a toxic cocktail of their own budget cuts and spiralling fees at homes. To avoid the upheaval of moving their loved one, families are thus forced to stump up the shortfall in funding.
An Age UK spokesman said: ‘More and more families whose older relatives are on a low income are finding that there is no other alternative but to supplement inadequate local authority funding with sky-high top-up fees.
‘This crisis in the funding of social care is rippling through generations and the wider economy, forcing hard-pressed families into traumatic choices, pitting the quality of care provision against the burden of shouldering top-up fees.’
Dr Ros Altmann, the former head of Saga, who now works as an independent policy consultant, said: ‘This shows how the social care system is in crisis.
‘We are handing the responsibility for care for elderly people to cash-strapped councils who are forcing families to take heartbreaking decisions.
‘Our elderly are being passed from care home to care home like parcels.’
Figures from data firm Laing & Buisson show English councils are paying £480 per week for residential care in 2012 to 2013. By contrast, the average weekly care home cost was between £528 and £623.