Care Bill will show true extent of unjust practices and underfunding in residential care, says charity
Caring Times Extra, November 2013
The new Care Bill, which is intended to make the provision of care simpler and fairer, will in fact reveal the true extent of underfunding in residential care and the unjust practices used to support it, says a new report, launched in early November by Independent Age.
The charity has calculated that residential care is currently underfunded by at least £700m a year – with councils, care homes and ultimately older people and their families filling the gap. Local authorities currently buy residential care places for the poorest pensioners at between £40 and £150 below the market rate.
Many care homes pass this onto individuals, either by asking families to ‘top-up’ the cost of their loved one’s care home places – which Independent Age calls the ‘secret subsidy’ – or by charging fee-paying residents more for the same level of care.
Independent Age predicts that with the introduction of the Care Bill these practices and the true costs of care will become more transparent, having serious implications for individuals, care homes and local authorities. It is calling on the Government to properly assess and fully fund the cost of councils providing care.
The report says that, under the new regime, every self-funder in residential care will be able to ask their local authority to purchase care for them at the council’s standard rate, with care homes coming under greater pressure because they may no longer be able to rely on self-funders paying more for their care.
Independent Age chief executive Janet Morrison said that as some care homes struggled to maintain profitability, local authorities would in turn come under greater pressure to pay the real market rates for care, not just a rate that is affordable to them.
“While we welcome the great progress the Care Bill represents it’s crucial the Government addresses these issues now,” said Ms Morrison.
“We will continue to press for realistic funding of local government’s social care responsibilities. Without it, local authorities will come under even more pressure, care homes will suffer and more people will end up topping-up care which should be free. In addition to funding, it’s important that regulations on top-up fees are not just maintained at current levels but tightened and we will be asking the Department of Health to improve the statutory guidance regarding these as the new Bill is developed in the coming months.”