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By Debbie le Quesne

Rising cost of care: Don’t shoot the providers, please

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Those people needing to go into a care home now face average fees of £30,000 a year as costs are rising ten times faster than pensioner incomes, writes The Telegraph consumer affairs editor Katie Morley.

A study by Prestige nursing, one of the UK’s biggest care agencies, found a “desperate and worsening” care crisis, with the annual cost of a care home room increasing by £1,536, or 5.2pc over the past year.

The article points out this is almost ten times more than the average £156 (1pc) income gains earned by pensioners over the same period.

Logically then, it suggests that paying for care without spending savings is becoming unaffordable even for the wealthiest pensioners.

Record low interest rates mean pensioners living off cash savings and buying guaranteed incomes in the form of annuities are struggling to generate monies which will not devalue as the price of goods and services gradually rises.

According to the Telegraph “the cost of the average single room in a full-time care home has pushed past £30,000 for the first time and is now £30,926, some £16,470 more than the average pensioner income of £14,456.

“It means pensioners are short by an average of £290 a week if they require residential care,” states the article.

Not surprisingly, the article adds: “London is the region with the most expensive care homes with the average cost now at £38,896 a year. It has overtaken the East of England as the most expensive as a result of experiencing the biggest annual rise in care costs of any UK region at 19pc.”

Before we go any further with this, I must add that every region has a different story to tell on the costs of care, often mirroring the social wealth of the area. We need to be careful how we take up this information and how it is used. For example, in the West Midlands it is more likely to be £24,000 per year, but still many try to provide quality care for less.

Nevertheless, the statistics in the media make compelling reading.

Ros Altmann, the former pensions minister, is quoted in the article, saying: “We have an increasingly desperate crisis in social care in this country. Nobody has set money aside to cover care needs for the increasing numbers of older people who cannot manage to look after themselves.”

Not a lot is made of why we are in this mess in Morley’s work, so I’ll add a nugget or two . . . Simple: Government no longer wants to fund social care in a fair and realistic way. To survive, care providers have to pass on costs. We’re not talking fat cat owners here, either; this is simple economics of survival.

In a separate article carried in the Guardian, Care England, lambasted the government for the crisis in the industry, accusing ministers of not having a strategy for older adult care and allowing local authorities to pay well below the cost of care for residents with state funding.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, is quoted as saying: “I have great sympathy [for residents]. There is a dynamic in this called ageism. Why is it that when you get old and get a disease called dementia, you have to pay for it? I don’t know how in the age of the Equality Act you have older people having to pay for a service that younger people get for free.

“The government needs to have a proper approach to social care. Just pumping money into the NHS isn’t going to work. They need a clear approach, saying that this is what good social care costs. The government needs to show a bit of leadership, I am sick of them hiding behind localism and saying it is about local councils.”

Strong words., which I’d be willing to echo.

There will be those who will blame this current batch of figures on the greed of owners. Frankly, that’s rubbish. It’s just too easy to blame providers when all the facts are not present.

Some local authorities are paying just £330 a week for residents, the equivalent of less than £2 an hour.

Is that a fair rate for caring? Will that really cover hands-on care, laundry costs, food, lighting heating etc? Of course it won’t.

 

 

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