With an increasing demand for care services, a Which? investigation finds that over the last five years some local authorities have been restricting home care and increasing costs above inflation, leading to a widening postcode lottery in care costs.
A third of local authorities hike rates above inflation
Using Freedom of Information requests over the last five years, we asked councils in England and Wales what level of home care they provided each year from 2009 to 2013.
Our latest results show that more than 80% of councils now restrict care to those whose needs are ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’, up from just over 70% in 2009. Of the 26 councils who told us they offered care to people with ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ needs in 2009, only 12 continue to do so.
At the same time, of the 100 councils that responded about their care charges in both 2009 and 2013, around a third (36) have increased charges above the rate of inflation. Barnsley Metropolitan Council has increased its hourly rates the most, by 160%, whereas Tower Hamlets London Borough Council has maintained a zero charge policy and remains the least expensive council for care costs.
Big drop in number of councils offering weekly caps
And some local authorities have either scrapped weekly caps that limit how much people have to pay, or raised the level of the cap so they have to pay more. The proportion of councils offering weekly caps has more than halved in the last five years, from two-thirds (66%) who responded to our FOI in 2009 to just one in three (31%) in 2013. The average cap has also increased from £245 per week in 2009 to £297.50 per week in 2013.
With such varying changes in eligibility and care costs, Which? wants the Government to make sure elderly people and their families get better information and advice about the care they’re entitled to and how much they will need to pay.
The Care Bill will place new duties on local authorities to do this for everyone, not just those who are eligible for long term care. We want councils to provide information that is tailored to individual situations, and targeted at key pinch points, for example when people see their GP or are discharged from hospital.
Which? to launch new website
Which? is launching a new, free-to-use elderly care website later this year to give relatives of older people the information and advice they need to be confident that they are making the best decisions on behalf of their relatives.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘Our research starkly exposes the postcode lottery of home care provision. With limited resources and changes being introduced through the Care Bill, it has never been more important for people to get the best possible advice and information about the help they can expect.
‘We want to see greater transparency from local authorities over the provision of care and greater consistency in the way they charge.’