Paul Burstow, former Minister for Care, recently tabled a Parliamentary Motion highlighting Independent Age’s research which reveals that around three-quarters of councils are unable to show they are protecting families of the poorest pensioners from paying top-up fees for essential residential care that it is really local authorities’ responsibilities to meet.
Early Day Motion 152 calls on the Government to strengthen the legal framework on charging in residential accommodation so that local authorities have to actively monitor which residents are able and willing to pay so-called top-up fees.
Top-up fees are meant to be paid by the relatives of council-funded residents who would like to pay more – perhaps because they would like their relative to have a bigger room, or a better view. But these payments should be voluntary and councils are required to check that families can afford to pay them. Top-ups should not be used to simply plug a shortfall in local authorities’ social care budgets, and they are not meant to be used to cover the costs of essential care.
Independent Age recently calculated 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. Many care homes are passing this shortfall onto individuals, either by asking families to ‘top-up’ the cost of their loved ones’ care home places which should be free, or by charging fee-paying residents more for the same level of care.
Andrew Kaye, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Independent Age, said,
“This important motion, sponsored by Paul Burstow, Grahame Morris and Tracey Crouch, follows on from our extensive research on the ‘Secret Subsidy’. Still too many families find themselves confused they are being asked to pay an additional fee for basic care they assumed it was the responsibility of councils to meet. It is wrong that families of some of the poorest pensioners are pushed to make up the shortfall in care home fees by paying top-ups they can ill afford. We’re calling on the Government to properly fund councils so they can pay a fair price for care and for councils to take whatever action they can to satisfy themselves that the people paying top-ups for care home places have voluntarily chosen to do so.”