New research with local authorities by advice charity Independent Age has found uncertainty and concern among councils about their responsibilities to monitor care home top-up fees under the new Care Act. The fees are paid by relatives to supplement the care of loved ones in care homes but Care Minister, Norman Lamb, said recently he feared some care homes were ‘exploiting’ the fees and using them to subsidise basic levels of care.
Independent Age has conducted in-depth interviews with a sample of 13 local authorities in England.
The key findings highlight:
· Uncertainty about the knock on effect of the Care Act on the payment of top-up fees.
· A lack of awareness from local authorities about whether family members can really afford to pay a top-up fee.
· An awareness by local authorities that families are increasingly worried about paying top-up fees.
· Challenges faced by local authorities in monitoring and managing the extent of top-up fee arrangements in their area.
· Wide variations in practice when councils arrange top-up fees.
Care home top-up fees are meant to allow relatives of council-funded care residents to pay extra for a care home place. 54,000 residents have their fees ‘topped up’. Some families choose to pay more to have a better room or facilities for their family member. However thousands of families of the poorest older people are asked to top-up the care costs without ever realising that it’s unnecessary and that it’s the responsibility of the council to fully fund the place.
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said:
“We believe local authorities must review all existing agreements with people who pay top-ups. They should check these payments are genuinely sustainable and make sure care homes do the same. Families need much more information and advice when thinking about placing their loved one in a care home, whilst care workers should also be better trained to help support the decision”.