I am shocked by the scale of charge increases for home care, which is used by the most vulnerable in society. The Government must take responsibility for the care crisis after cutting more than £1 billion from local authorities’ budgets for older people, since the coalition came to power.
Home care services allow people to live independently in their homes and are more cost effective than acute health services.
Locally, I am pleased to see that Oldham Council has suspended their initial proposals to increase home care charges for self funders from £9.50 to £18 per hour whilst a review is carried out to ensure that costs are recovered in a fair and reasonable manner.
A new survey of local authorities, published on 16th May by Labour, reveals big increases and wide variations in council charges for home care services, which help frail and vulnerable older and disabled people get up, washed, dressed and fed.
The survey found
- The average charge for an hour of home care has increased by 10% between 2009/10 and 2012/13 – from £12.29 to £13.61.
- There are wide disparities in the price people pay for care depending on where they live: whilst home care is free in Tower Hamlets, it costs £21.50 per hour in Brighton and Hove.
- 11% fewer people older people had their care fully paid for by their local authority in 20011/12 compared to 2009/10.
The increase in home care charges means the average annual cost for an older or disabled person who pays for 10 hours home care a week has increased to £7,077 a year in 2012/13 – up over £680 since 2009/10.
Some councils limit or ‘cap’ the weekly costs people are required to pay for home care. This cap varies from £90 a week in Barnsley to £900 a week in Brighton and Hove.
Almost half of the councils who reported having a cap on home care charges in 2009/10 have now removed it. 46% have increased their cap and 6% have frozen it.
121 out of 153 Councils (79%) responded to Labour’s Freedom of Information request on Home Care Charges. Adults who meet both eligibility (needs) and wealth (means) tests are entitled to council funded care in England.
Age UK’s Care in Crisis 2012 report shows that councils are raising their eligibility criteria. In 2005, half of councils provided care for people with moderate needs, but in 2011 only 18% of councils provided care for people with moderate needs. This means 8 out of 10 councils are now only providing care for people with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs.
People who meet council eligibility tests and have income or savings of less than £14,250 are entitled to free care; people with income or savings of between £14,250 and £23,250 have to pay some charges; people with income or savings over £23,250 have to pay full charges for home care.
There are national regulations on charging for residential care. However, for home care and other community services local councils can set their own charging policies within national guidance. The Dilnot Commission on long term care funding highlighted the lack of transparency and clarity on eligibility and charging and called for clear national standards.
The Personal Social Services Research Unit’s report Unit Costs of Health and Social Care 2010 defines the median care user as someone receiving 10 hours of care a week.