Care home funding lottery
Vulnerable pensioners could be losing out due to a care home funding lottery.
A new study by insurer Royal London has uncovered the care home funding lottery with a huge variation in how much councils are prepared to pay towards care home costs.
Royal London submitted freedom of information inquiries to 150 English local authorities with responsibility for funding social care. To date, they have received replies from more than 125 of these councils.
The replies show a big variation in the contribution amounts local authorities are prepared to pay for care home places.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the responses also demonstrated the extent to which people have to ‘haggle’ with local authorities in order to get a good deal for their elderly relatives.
Where elderly people enter care in a ‘crisis’ situation and do not have family members to advocate on their behalf, this process of negotiating care fee packages could leave the vulnerable elderly losing out according to Royal London.
The research identified three different approaches taken by local authorities to funding care:
– Authorities which have a fixed ceiling for care home funding which they will not exceed, regardless of actual care costs. Examples of local authories which follow this approach include:
- Blackpool, which will not exceed a fixed limit of £476 per week;
- Bury, which has a standard fee limit of £460 per week;
- Hartlepool, which will not go above £521 per week;
- Luton, which has a limit of £735 per week which it will not exceed for ‘in-borough’ placements;
– Authorities which have a published ceiling but which regularly exceed it on a case-by-case basis. Examples include:
- Oxfordshire, which has a stated rate of £493 per week for residential care but breaches this in 94% of cases;
- Poole, which says it will pay £490 per week for care home places, but exceeds this limit in 84% of cases;
- Solihull, which says it will pay £549 per week, but exceeds this limit in 74% of cases;
- Sandwell, which says it will pay £408 per week (or £459 for those with dementia), but exceeds this limit in 56% of cases;
– Authorities which say they have no set fee limit but negotiate each placement on a case by case basis. These include:
- Buckinghamshire, which says it has no set rate;
- Cornwall, which says it does not operate a ‘tariff’ system but funds on an individual basis;
- Croydon, which funds on an individual basis ‘according to need’;
In all, Royal London found that roughly one third of councils had a fixed limit which they never (or rarely) breached, around half had a limit which they routinely breached, and the remaining one sixth said everyone was treated on a case-by-case basis.
Commenting on the findings, Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London said:
We have uncovered a disturbing patchwork of support for people needing residential care, which varies hugely depending on where you live. The most worrying variation is the extent to which residents are expected to haggle with the council in some parts of the country.
Whilst responding to individual needs and circumstances sounds like a good thing, it is very likely that older people who have vocal family members to support them will be able to strike a better deal.
Local authorities must be very careful to ensure that they do not take advantage of the poor bargaining power of vulnerable elderly people, leading them to accept the cheapest care provision rather than the most suitable.
When planning for the cost of care in later life, it’s important to recognise the different approaches taken by local authorities across England.
In our experience, there is a great deal of value in having a strong advocate to ensure relatives receive the best possible deal when they need care.