Responses to a Freedom of Information request to local authorities have revealed a worrying postcode lottery of care, Royal London has revealed.
The insurance company contacted 150 local authorities, of which 125 responded. The replies show a huge variation in both the amount councils will pay towards care home costs, and the extent to which people have to ‘haggle’ with their local authority to get a good deal. Elderly people who enter care in a ‘crisis’ situation and do not have family members to advocate on their behalf could lose out when it comes to negotiating care fee packages, 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
- Authorities which have a published ceiling but which regularly exceed it on a case-by-case basis
- Authorities which say they have no set fee limit but negotiate each placement on a case by case basis
Commenting on the findings, Dominic Carter, Alzheimer’s Society Senior Policy Officer, said: “The unacceptable postcode lottery of care that people face nationwide has been exacerbated by a lamentable lack of funding from Government. Local authorities have been left with precious little resource to provide the care people with dementia need.
“Because people with dementia have such complex needs, places in care homes are on average seven to ten per cent more expensive – but the rates local authorities pay hardly ever recognise this additional cost. On top of this, the report today highlights how much local authority funding differs across the country, heaping even more financial pressure on families in unlucky postcodes.
“The Government says it is committed to reforming social care, but we need to see enough funding to provide good quality, affordable care for everyone with dementia, no matter where they live.”
Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London, added: “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”.