Home care fees rise by up to 160pc as rationing takes hold

Elderly and disabled people who need care in their own homes have been hit with rises of up to 160 per cent in their bills in just five years, new research shows.

7:00AM BST 19 Sep 2013

New care measure 'sets bar too high' for elderly and disabled, say charities Home care fees rise by up to 160pc as rationing takes hold Photo: IAN JONES

The number of areas in which the state support for care is available to anyone other than the most frail has also halved in the same period, it discloses.

A study by Which?, the consumer rights group, exposes the full extent to which councils are rationing care as they attempt to absorb major cuts to their budgets.

Based on information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, it discloses that there are now only 12 local authorities in England and Wales still offering care to people whose needs are officially assessed as “moderate”. Five years ago it was able to identify 26 areas where this was still available.

At the same time, those who do not qualify to have some or all of their care paid for – something which is decided both on need and ability to pay – have seen sharp rises in their fees.

But the report discloses a postcode lottery across the country, with some councils, which organize the care, freezing fees while others have more than doubled them.

In Bridgend, south Wales; Derbyshire, Worcestershire and Cheshire, people receiving home care are charged more than £20 an hour while in Pembrokeshire it costs just £6.05 an hour. In Tower Hamlets, east London, the council still pays the fees.

Meanwhile in Barnsley, south Yorkshire, hourly rates have jumped from £5 to £13 in five years, 160 per cent.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: “Our research starkly exposes the postcode lottery of home care provision.

“We want to see greater transparency from local authorities over the provision of care and greater consistency in the way they charge.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “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.”