State-funded care for elderly 'in decline'

Councils funding care for 11% fewer people

Local authorities are reducing the number of elderly people whose care they pay for, reveals data obtained by Labour.

The Freedom of Information statistics also show that for elderly people who must fund their own home care, costs are rising.

Information from 121 councils shows that 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. This means that someone receiving 10 hours of home care a week – the median number of hours for a care user – faces an annual cost of £7,077 in 2012/13, £680 higher than in 2009/10.

What’s more, over the same time period, 11% fewer elderly people had their care fully paid for by their local authority.

The survey also revealed significant disparities in the price people pay for care depending on where they live – while home care is free in Tower Hamlets, it costs £21.50 per hour in Brighton and Hove.

Some councils 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. Some 46% have increased their cap and 6% have frozen it.

Many councils are also making it more difficult for people to qualify for free care, paying for only those with the most severe needs. Age UK’s Care in Crisis 2012 report showed that the proportion of councils providing care for those with ‘moderate’ needs has fallen from 50% in 2005 to just 18% in 2011. Therefore eight in ten councils were only providing care for those with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs last year.

Labour MP Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people, branded the increases in charges a “stealth tax” on “the most vulnerable people in society”.
 
She said: “Fewer older people are getting their care for free, and more older and disabled people are being forced to pay more for vital services that help them get up washed dressed and fed.  
 
“These services are a lifeline for older and disabled people and crucial to helping them stay living independently in their own homes.”

She added: “The Government is out of touch with the growing care crisis. They promised to protect social care services, but more than £1bn has been cut from local council budgets for older people since the Conservative-led Government came to power.
 
“They also promised to legislate on a future legal and financial framework for social care in this Parliamentary session. Yet last week’s Queen’s Speech only committed to publishing draft legislation on reforming social care law, with no commitment to introduce a Bill on reform of care funding.”

Kendall urged prime minister David Cameron to take urgent action to tackle the “care crisis”, and engage in cross-party talks currently taking place to try to find a solution to social care funding.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said it is down to councils to decide whether and how much to charge for home care services.

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