Counsel and Care: Paying for care is older people’s chief concern

Older people moving into a care home are finding it increasingly difficult to pay their bills because of the credit crunch, according to Counsel and Care.

In a report released today, the charity outlined the issues that most concerned older people, their families and carers in 2008 based on 2,620 calls to its national advice helpline.

It was found that 30% of clients were worried about being forced into spending large amounts of their savings and capital on care home fees. The rising cost of care home placements was a particular concern, but older people also reported having their spending power curbed by the recession.

Hit by housing collapse

Many have been badly affected by the collapse in the housing market as many are now finding it difficult to sell their home in order to release capital, or are selling at below-market prices to encourage a quick sale, the report said.

Older people who do not receive any financial support from their local authority have also been badly hit. Nearly half of all self-funders seeking advice were concerned with how they were going to pay for a care home placement.

The charity called on councils to increase the number of deferred payment loans offered to allow more older people to repay fees once their home is eventually sold.

Third party top-ups criticised

It also criticised the increasing number of councils requesting third party top-up fees, pointing out that 18% of calls about care home costs were about a family member being asked to pay up in addition to the council’s contribution. The report highlighted that social workers were often not aware that requesting third party top-ups should not be applied as a blanket policy by the council.

Chief executive Stephen Burke said that the report shed light on a “community care system in crisis”. He added: “The financial crisis only serves to highlight these difficulties and heightens the urgency of wholescale reform of the care system.

“The credit crunch does not mean that government has a ‘get out of jail free’ card on considering a meaningful increase in funding for older people’s care. This situation was urgent before the banks failed and with our ageing population will only get more so.”

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