Charities round on top-up fees guide

Older people’s charities and care home campaigners have reacted
with scepticism to government guidance intended to stop councils
charging residents top-up fees.

Initially welcomed as a way to give residents a greater choice of
care home (news, page 6, 14 October), the guidance has been
described as “hollow” and a way of “passing the buck” from central
government to councils.

It will place a duty on councils to give publicly funded clients
the choice of care home as long as it meets their assessed need and
the fees they charge are reasonable.

Previously, councils could refuse to pay higher fees if a client
refused the care home place offered to them by the council.

In such circumstances, councils could charge the resident a top-up
fee for the difference between the two fee levels.

However, Help the Aged’s head of public affairs, Mervyn Kohler,
said that without extra resources from government councils were
likely to fit the needs of clients around the available funds.

“These are fine words but, once you unpick them, local authorities
will still decide who has to pay,” he said. “A cash-strapped
council will offer the best service it can, but this guidance won’t
change its behaviour. The cards remain very much in the hands of
councils in how they interpret this.”

Fair care home fees campaign group NHFA said the guidance failed to
solve the disparity between the fees councils were prepared to pay
and care home providers’ assessments of the true cost of care.

NHFA director Philip Spiers said the only solution was for the
government to set regional rates for care fees.

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