30 Dec 2011

Revealed: rising cost of social care

Labour accuses the government of a “stealth tax” on the elderly and disabled, as new figures reveal a stark rise in the cost of social care services and major disparities in costs across the country.

Figures from 93 out of England’s 153 councils were revealed by Labour today, prompting the shadow health minister Liz Kendall to call the cost increases a “stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society”.

The statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information act, show the cost of meals-on-wheels has risen by 13 per cent, with the price of a meal rising from £3.17 to £3.44.

The cost of transport fees rose by 33 per cent over the last year, with the average cost of travel to places such as day care centres, rising to £2.32 per journey.

The hourly cost of home care has risen by six per cent over two years to an average of £13.49 per hour, meaning that someone who does not receive state help and gets 10 hours of support a week – the average amount of care required – pays around £7,015 per year.

Over 500,000 people – either elderly or in some way disabled – rely on help at home from their local council to assist with daily needs such as washing, dressing or personal chores. Those with savings below £13,000 receive care for free.

Councillor David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board said that the current social care system is “not fit for purpose”.

Read more: The growing crisis in UK home care

A ‘postcode lottery’

The data also reveals a huge difference in the cost of social services across the country. For example, people living in the London borough of Tower Hamlets pay nothing for personal care, while those living in Cheshire East are charged over £20 an hour.

Labour said the figures revealed a “postcode lottery” for those reliant on social care.

Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendall said that the home care service is a “lifeline” for older and disabled people.

These increases in home care charges for older and disabled people are a stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society. Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendall

“These increases in home care charges for older and disabled people are a stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society,” she said.

“The Conservative-led Government is out of touch with the growing crisis in care. Their brutal cuts to funding for local council services for older people – £1.3 bn already this Parliament – are pushing up charges and placing an even greater burden on the people who most need help.”

Councillor David Rogers said that the current social care system is “underfunded and in need of urgent reform,” but added: “councils are facing the long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs.”

He said that there was no “one-size-fits-all approach” and that different councils faced “very different pressures” in adult social care, meaning that “decisions need to be taken locally.”

The Department of Health said: “Local authorities are responsible for non-residential care. Any charges they choose to make must be fair and affordable. The Government is providing an extra £7.2 billion over the next four years to councils so they can protect services that support vulnerable people.”