Elderly people looking to find a care home face a postcode lottery in obtaining financial support, mutual insurer Royal London has found.
Freedom of Information replies from local authorities across the country revealed a huge variation in the amount councils are willing to pay and the extent to which people have to ‘haggle’ in order to get a good deal.
Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London, said: “We have uncovered a disturbing patchwork of support for people needing residential care, which varies hugely depending on where you live. The most worrying variation is the extent to which residents are expected to haggle with the council in some parts of the country.
“Whilst responding to individual needs and circumstances sounds like a good thing, it is very likely that older people who have vocal family members to support them will be able to strike a better deal. Local authorities must be very careful to ensure that they do not take advantage of the poor bargaining power of vulnerable elderly people, leading them to accept the cheapest care provision rather than the most suitable.”
A number of local authorities have a fixed weekly ceiling for care home funding which they refuse to exceed regardless of actual costs, these include: Blackpool (£476); Bury (£460); Hartlepool (£521); and Luton (£735 for ‘in borough’ placements).
Other local authorities have a fixed ceiling which they regularly exceed on a case by case basis, these include: Oxfordshire (£493, breached in 94% of cases); Poole (£490, breached in 84% of cases); Solihull (£549, breached in 74% of cases); and Sandwell (£408, or £459 for those living with dementia, breached in 56% of cases).
Lastly, some local authorities have no fee limit but negotiate each placement on a case by case basis, these include Buckinghamshire, Cornwall and Croydon.
Overall, a third of councils had a fixed limit which they never or rarely breached, a half had a limit which they routinely breached and the remaining treated everyone on a case by case basis.