Five expensive obstacles to find a care home place

The middle classes have to overcome five expensive obstacles when they need to find a place for a loved one in a care home, a report said yesterday.

The warning from the charity Independent Age comes amid growing concerns over how long-term care is funded.

The five ways that middle class families are let down identified by the charity are:

  • The care home means test, which says that anyone with savings or a home worth more than £23,250 must pay all their own fees, currently averaging £524 a week. The report called this ‘the worst means test in the welfare state’.
  • The failure of councils to give any help or advice to the families of people with more than £23,250 in assets. This can lead to damaging and expensive mistakes in choosing a care home.
  • Top-up fees. Councils pay an average of £452 a week for care home places. People in care homes which charge more are asked for top-ups, often unlawfully because councils try to pay less than their legal duty. In some cases better-off families are asked to pay top-ups of more than £300 a week. In all 55,000 families are paying top-ups.
  • Different costs in different places. Brent council in London, for example, pays no more than £451 a week for care home bills. But a few miles away in Islington, the council will cover costs of £952.50. The varying policies mean families in the wrong place can end up paying hundreds of pounds a week extra in top-ups.
  • Pocket money. People whose fees are paid by the council are allowed to keep no more than £23.50 a week to pay for extras to brighten up life in a care home. Independent Age said this is inadequate.

For many, the tiny allowance means they have to rely on families to pay much of the cost of new clothes, hairdressing, books and magazines, dry cleaning, toiletries, dental care and spectacles, and even treats like sweets and chocolates.

Last year a report commissioned by David Cameron from economist Andrew Dilnot recommended that the care home means test threshold should be set at £100,000, and no one with less wealth should be made to pay their own fees.

It also said that there should be a cap on the amount that anyone should have to pay for their care, possibly set at £50,000.

But the Prime Minister, who is under pressure from charities and campaigners to pour in billions of taxpayers’ money, and from free-market think tanks to do the opposite, has delayed making a decision.

The Independent Age report said that local councils responsible for running the means test and paying for the care of those who pass it are exploiting families and leaving many of them confused over how the system operates.

Its policy director Simon Bottery said: ‘It is unfair that family members are left to plug that gaps for fees that council should be funding.

‘It happens because the care system is terribly complicated and in many cases relatives simply don’t understand the system.

‘We understand that councils are themselves struggling to find the money to fund care.

‘The situation is further proof of the need for the Government to radically reform care funding, along the lines recommended by the Dilnot Commission

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