Thousands of families in England may be paying councils millions of pounds a year for care home places that should be free* , according to a report by older people’s charity Independent Age.

The families are having to ‘top-up’ their elderly relatives’ care home fees because some councils refuse to pay the full market cost themselves. Councils are required to provide an appropriate care home place to elderly people with few assets but the maximum rate they will pay in England is on average £4521 a week, compared to an average real cost of £5242 .

Around 55,000 families pay top-up fees3 , and Independent Age has seen cases where families are asked to pay up to £300 a week extra for care that should be paid for by the council.

The charity’s report, The real cost of care, outlines five ways our care home funding system penalises the average older person and their family, also shows how care home funding is a postcode lottery, with some councils in England willing to pay over £900 a week for care home places while neighbouring councils pay less than £400. This means that the top-up fees required of families can also vary widely.

‘It is unfair that family members are left to plug the gaps for fees that councils should be funding,’ says Independent Age Director of Policy Simon Bottery. ‘It happens because care funding 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. This situation is further proof of the need for the government to radically reform care funding, along the lines recommended by the recent Dilnot Commission.’

Notes to editor:

1 Independent Age estimate based on figures from Community Care Market News Annual Survey of UK Local Authority Baseline Fee Rates 2011/12, Laing and Buisson July 2011.

2 Laing and Buisson’s Care of Elderly People; UK Market Survey 2011-12 Laing and Buisson, p15. * Care home residents with assets below £14,250 and little income should receive care that is free except for a contribution they must make from their state pension and any other weekly income. Those with assets of £23,250 or below must meet some additional care costs.

3 Laing and Buisson’s Care of Elderly People; UK Market Survey 2011-12 Laing and Buisson, p15

For media enquiries, contact Rebecca Law on 020 7605 4291 or email rebecca.law@independentage.org.

About Independent Age

Independent Age is a unique and growing charity, providing information, advice and support to thousands of older people across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It has recently merged with two other older people's charities, Counsel and Care and Universal Beneficent Society, to provide a broader range of services than any of the charities could provide separately. For more information visit www.independentage.org.

Speak to one of our advisers for free and confidential advice and information on home care, care homes, going into hospital and other related issues. Lines are open Monday to Friday between 10am - 4pm. Call 0845 262 1863 or email advice@independentage.org.

About the data

The findings are based on a combination of the evidence from 3,705 enquiries received by our Counsel and Care Advice Service between April 2011 and end March 2012, plus our own analysis of two Laing and Buisson reports: Community Care Market News Annual Survey of UK Local Authority Baseline Fee Rates 2011/12 and Care of Elderly People UK Market Survey 2011/12.

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