People face paying £34k a year for residential care

Health visitor and a senior woman during home visit.

The cost of being in a UK care home rose at its fastest rate last year and is now an average of £33,904 a year – up almost 10% on the 2016 figure.

Ahead of next week’s budget, which may reveal the latest government thinking on the cost of care timebomb, research from Prestige Nursing + Care has revealed the latest costs and a huge disparity in prices around the country.

Care home residents in the north-east pay the least – an average of £25,636 a year, which is a 16.3% increase on 2016. At the other end of the spectrum – and country – residents in the east of England, the UK’s most expensive region, are paying an average of £40,820 a year, which is 7.7% higher than the 2016 figure. These findings echo those by the not-for-profit firm Paying for Care, which says you can expect to spend an average of £31,200 a year on residential care, rising to more than £43,700 if nursing care is needed.

Care home costs, and who pays, became a political hot potato earlier this year when Theresa May’s pre-election plans for changes to social care, later dubbed the dementia tax, had to be dropped after they were poorly received during the general election campaign.

The prime minister had suggested councils would pick up the tab for care costs once a person’s assets fell below £100,000, as opposed to the current level of £23,250 in England. Controversially, family homes would also be included in the means-testing formula for at-home care for the first time. Ministers later rowed back from the proposal.

Prestige Nursing’s research shows the increase in care home costs has hugely outpaced the growth in pensioners’ incomes over the past five years. Since 2012 the cost of the average care home has gone up by 23.7% from £27,404 (an increase of £6,500), while the average pension income has risen by 9.9%, an increase in 2016 of £1,314.

The east Midlands saw the largest overall increase in the cost of a care home last year, rising 17.7% to £33,956. Research from Saga has previously shown that care home residents typically spend 2.5 years in care – meaning they can expect to part with at least £77,500, usually by selling the family home.

Prestige Nursing’s research also compared the cost of receiving care at home as a cheaper alternative. Based on the 12 hours a week of care that at-home patients typically receive, costs can fall to £183 a week, or £9,156 a year, although with the firm offering such services it is beating its own drum.

Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing, says: “It is alarming to see care home costs continue to rise so out of sync with pensioners’ incomes. With later-life incomes stagnating, the rising cost of care will eat away at a growing number of families’ finances as they use their assets to meet bills. This reinforces the fact that we are facing a serious and prolonged social care crisis. Spiralling costs mean people must talk about how they will fund care for themselves or their loved ones earlier, and avoid being stung.

“The enormity of the challenges means there is a desperate need for a political solution to the crisis. While fixing social care will not be easy, it can be turned around if policymakers set out a concrete plan that takes into account the needs of patients, providers and councils.”

Last month, Conservative council leaders warned that county councils could not afford to fund the £308m rise in care home costs if social care plans got the go-ahead.

The County Councils Network, which represents the 37 county councils, said raising the threshold would push far more people into state care than local authorities could fund under their current budgets. Colin Noble, Conservative leader of Suffolk council, called on the government to use next week’s budget to inject further cash into the system and help the “black hole” that is social care.

 

This article was written by Miles Brignall from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.