Research from older people’s charity, Independent Age, has been used in Parliament to highlight the issue of unfair care home top-up fees.

Thousands of families of the poorest older people are asked to ‘top-up’ the cost of their loved-one’s care home place.  Some families choose to pay more to have a better room or facilities for their family member.  However many others pay hundreds of pounds a week without ever realising that it’s unnecessary and that it’s the responsibility of the council to fully fund the place.

Speaking in Parliament, Norman Lamb MP, the Care Minister said that ‘the idea of a care home constantly ratcheting the top-up fee to someone who is perhaps in the latter stages of their life, perhaps got dementia is completely unacceptable exploitation of that individual and should be condemned’

Paul Burstow MP, the former Care Minister told a parliamentary debate there is mounting evidence of confusion and rule breaking over the application of top-up fees by local authorities. Mr Burstow cited two examples of unfair top-up fees one of which was the case provided by Independent Age of a 87 year old lady who wanted to live closer to her daughter following a spell in hospital.

Paul Burstow  said the rules on top up-up fees need to be examined and told the debate that ‘we need to get this right as top-ups look set to grow in number’.

In response Norman Lamb, said he was concerned about the case studies of two older people Paul Burstow had highlighted in his speech.  Mr Lamb said they ‘almost sort of smack of exploitation’ of the elderly people involved.

Mr Lamb said care home tops-ups ‘must be the positive choice on the part of the person, something that they understand, both in terms of costs and consequences, and never something they should feel pushed into doing as a necessity’.

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent age said:

“We strongly welcome a debate on the worrying issue of top-up fees from care homes. These are meant to allow families to pay extra for care above a basic standard but many families are in fact paying for basic care that it is really the responsibility of the council to meet. Though councils are supposed to check that families really want to pay extra, most councils don’t even know the true number of top-up fee agreements in their area. Families should only have to pay top-up fees as a genuine choice and not because they feel backed into a corner by a council or a care home. They need better advice and information before signing and regular reviews of the agreement. But the problem is not simply down to poor practice - our research shows that it is driven by the widespread underfunding of social care by national as well as local government”.  

Notes for Editors:

  • The Independent Age ‘End the Secret Subsidy’ campaign revealed that around three-quarters of councils are failing to protect families from paying unnecessary ‘top-up’ fees for the care of elderly relatives.
  • We estimate that residential care is underfunded by around £700m a year, with local authorities buying care places at between £30 and £130 below the market rate.  We believe people should only use top-ups as a choice. 
  • Paul Burstow MP, the former Care Minister proposed Early Day Motion 152 on Care Home top-up fees on 19 June 2014.  It currently has 33 signatories.


For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Clare Thorp
Head of Media and PR

T 020 7605 4252
M 07525 767521

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