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Care crisis as councils ‘pay too little to cover costs of home care for the elderly’


THE “widespread and systematic underfunding” of the cost of care for pensioners in their own homes has led to a £513 million funding gap, a new report warns today.

And it warns of the ongoing viability of a state-funded system for the 500,000 older people who rely on help to wash, dress, shop or bathe to help them live independently.

The United Kingdom Home Care Association (UKHCA) sent Freedom of Information requests to 208 local councils to discover the extent of the deficit for 2016/17.

In England there is a black hole of £360m, in Wales it is £23m, in Scotland, £72m and in Northern Ireland it is £58m.

The report also exposes the postcode lottery of the prices that individual councils are willing to pay for essential care services, even within the same region.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said: “The adult care system is in crisis. Spending on care is unable to cope with rising demand.

“The impact of these pressures on the system can be seen through ever-increasing delays in discharging patients from hospital, a growing workforce gap in the care sector, and most importantly, older people not getting the care they desperately need.”

An NHS hospital

More and more elderly people are relying heavily on NHS services

Meanwhile careworkers’ pay and conditions are directly affected by low rates paid by councils, which are estimated to purchase around 80 per cent of all homecare in the UK.

Underfunded homecare is an urgent situation, which must not be allowed to continue

Colin Ange of UKHCA

Colin Angel, policy director at UKHCA, said: “Councils which decide to pay inadequate rates for homecare are taking major risks with people’s wellbeing and the jobs of local people who provide care.

“We have already seen evidence of homecare providers leaving the state-funded care market, or closing their doors for good because they cannot afford to remain in business.

“People who use homecare services are already experiencing the consequences of unstable care markets.

“Underfunded homecare is an urgent situation, which must not be allowed to continue.”

A nurse caring for an elderly woman

In England alone, there is a black hole of £360 million

The UKHCA is calling on Government to make adequate funding available to councils.

There should also be constraints to make sure councils actually use additional funds intended for social care, to avoid the current postcode lottery and instability in local care markets.

Local authorities must also continue to make hard financial decisions which enable them to allocate a greater proportion of their income to homecare services.

An elderly woman

Careworkers’ pay and conditions are directly affected by low rates paid by councils

For councils in England, this includes continuing to raise an additional two per cent of council tax as part of the ‘Social Care Precept’ from 2017 onwards.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Based on ‘fair price of care’ calculations by care providers, the immediate pressures threatening the stability of the provider market could amount to at least £1.3bn.

“We also estimate that by 2019/20, a further £1.3bn will be required to deal with the additional pressures brought about by an ageing population, inflation, and the cost of paying the National Living Wage.

“The care provider market cannot carry on as it is and there is a real danger of more widespread market failure.

“Either care is properly funded or providers will pull out of council contracts or in worst case scenario go bust. The market for publicly-funded care is simply not sustainable as it stand.”


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