Around a quarter of care home residents are now funded in part by ‘top up’ fees because Local Authorities are not paying care homes enough to cover the full cost of care, it has been reported. These additional payments ought to be charged when someone opts for a more expensive home than the Council is willing to fund – but in reality, they are being added to residents’ bills routinely. The top up fees, in some instances, have suddenly doubled or trebled in a short space of time, to cover the Care Home’s costs. CEO of Care England Martin Green says the pressure to pay the fees is ‘emotional blackmail’.
The Local Authority partly funds care for those with savings of between £14,250 and £23,500 – moving to full funding once savings have fallen to the lower £14,250 level. Full funding is also available for those with particular needs under the complex NHS Continuing Healthcare scheme, regardless of the person’s income or savings. However, even those who are entitled to full funding are being asked to contribute as the amount that the Local Authority pays is approximately £42 less than the true cost of care, according to Health Think Tank ‘the Kings Fund’.
According to Business Analyst LaingBuisson, residents’ surcharges can vary from £25 a week to over £100 a week, with significant regional variations. In the Northeast, 18% of residents are asked to pay top ups – while in the Southeast, the figure increases to 54%. A helpline run by the Charity Independent Age is receiving daily calls on this issue, with one caller complaining that their top up had more than trebled – from £35 a week five years ago, to £135 a week now. Another caller said their charge had doubled to £126/week since three years ago.
The top up charges do not fund any aspect of a particular resident’s care – instead they help to meet the Care Home’s general expenses because the Local Authority’s payments for funded residents are insufficient. The majority of family members feel obliged to pay the fees rather than disrupting their loved one’s care by moving them to another home. CEO of Independent Age Jane Morrison notes that while Local Authorities should be preventing this from happening, they often turn a blind eye.
Residents who fund their own care will also find that the fees they pay are inflated to meet the cost of caring for other Local Authority funded residents. A private individual will pay between £603 and £827 for care, while the Local Authority will pay between £421 and £624 for exactly the same room. Effectively self-funders subsidise Local Authority funded residents.
Care homes cite the increase in minimum wage as one of the major reasons why they have to charge, or increase, their top up fees.