Magazine article Public Finance

Councils Balance Books with Huge Rises in Care Fees

Magazine article Public Finance

Councils Balance Books with Huge Rises in Care Fees

Article excerpt

Elderly and disabled users of council care services are being hit with average fee increases of between nine and 31%, a snapshot Public Finance survey has found.

The fee increases are for community care services such as domiciliary care, meals-onwheels and day centres designed to keep infirm people out of hospital or care homes.

Details of planned increases at individual councils seen by PF range from 1.9% to well over 50% as authorities claim budgetary pressures and competition priorities mean they can no longer afford to subsidise care.

A spokesman for the charity Age Concern said: 'These statistics demonstrate the scale and extent of the decimation of services and escalation of costs that older people who require social care face. The real impact for many older people could be devastating.'

PF has seen details of fee increases either proposed or settled by 48 of England s 150 councils with social service responsibilities.

Of these, 26 are set to increase charges for domiciliary care by an average of 23% and 26 to increase meal service charges by an average of 9%.

Fifteen local authorities are to increase special disabled and elderly travel service fees by an average of 10%, and 13 are to increase day centre fees by an average of 31%.

The average figures cannot show the true extent of the fee increases in some areas as a number of authorities are introducing charges for services that have previously been free.

That includes the London Borough of Lambeth, where councillors have published detailed plans to increase the cost of domiciliary care and domestic help services by 132% ( from £7.55 to £17.50 per hour).

There will also be a 54% increase in meals-on-wheels charges and new fees for its previously free day centres and shopping and sitting services.

A Lambeth council insider told PF that the new Labour administration wished to make real-term cuts to the social care budget to fund higher-profile crime and youth policies.

Like four other authorities included in PFs survey, Lambeth councillors have also proposed to tighten eligibility criteria for care services. If the proposals are implemented, only those whose needs are defined as critical' will be eligible. …

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