We were disappointed, although perhaps not surprised to learn this week, that most councils in England are paying less than the industry recommended minimum for personal home care.
The UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), which represents providers, want them to be paid a minimum of £15.19 an hour, to cover wages, training and travel but data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as part of a BBC investigation, found the minimum paid met that in just four out of 101 cases.
Many councils use their dominant purchasing power in local markets to drive down prices for social care. We have seen evidence of this in residential care too, where, as we highlighted in our Secret Subsidy campaign, local authorities buy residential care places for pensioners at between £40 and £150 below the market rate. This means many care homes are put in the position where they feel they have to pass this cost onto individuals, either by asking families to 'top-up' the cost of their loved one’s care home place, or by charging fee-paying residents more for the same level of care.
Caring for vulnerable older people – in their own homes or in residential care - is a job that requires skill, empathy and dedication. But sadly the government has underfunded care for years, and while ministers have put extra money into some aspects of social care, the overall funding for all council services has been cut, placing a greater squeeze on local government finances. Here at Independent Age, we’ll continue to press for realistic funding of local government’s social care responsibilities. Without it, local authorities will come under even more pressure, and care providers and ultimately those receiving the care will end up suffering, or having to top-up care which should be free.
But let’s not end the week on a totally dour note. So, to brighten the mood, we’re pleased that Queen of cakes, Mary Berry, has had a good week. Not only was she named Oldie of The Year earlier this week but she also came out in favour of allowing yourself to age naturally. “I just love being an oldie,” she said on receiving the award. “There’s no Botox, and there are no implants and no tucks and wrinkle smoothing...I don’t have any beauty regime, not at all... I have never used face creams... I don’t want expensive make up. Why bother?”
The presenter added that being given an Oldie Award – whose previous winners include Sir David Attenborough and actress Joanna Lumley – meant her “CV is now complete”.
Actress, Anne Reid, too is having a run of success. The star of the BBC series Last Tango in Halifax took home the Oldie’s pin-up of the year prize. This follows on from Anne's success at our Older People in the Media Awards at the end of last year, when she took home the title of best older person’s character in a film, TV or radio drama, which was voted on exclusively by the users of Gransnet.