Personal Pension  

Political row erupts over care fee funding

The opposition has launched its most scathing attack on the government’s care reforms yet by claiming that extra costs which fall outside the charge cap, including food and utility bills, will hike the average care home bill to £150,000.

Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people, warned that fewer people will be able to afford basic services under the current system of charges supervised by councils, which she likened to a “stealth tax”.

Ms Kendall said: “Many elderly and disabled people, and families who want to help their loved ones, will really struggle to pay these charges when they are already facing a cost of living crisis.

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In a freedom of information request submitted to local authorities, Labour found that many councils have paved the way for unlimited care charges following the 2010 election, with the percentage of councils capping the cost of care falling from 60 per cent to 36 per cent in the three years since the Coalition government came to power.

For instance, home care is free in the London local authority of Tower Hamlets yet the same service costs £20.34 an hour in Cheshire East. Labour found that local authorities in England are charging an average of £13.37 an hour.

The opposition also claimed that the typical cost of ten hours home care and five ‘meals on wheels’ a week has jumped to £7,900 a year, up almost £740 since 2009-10.

However, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat care minister, said it was “rank hypocrisy” for Labour to criticise the government’s approach over care funding, claiming that the party had done “absolutely nothing” to address the issue during its 13 years in power.

Kay Ingram, divisional director at care fee specialist LEBC Group, said the “partisan and hysterical” row brewing between the main political parties could create panic among 800,000 families who have to pay for care.

She said: “The truth is that many who require care and have their own assets end up funding everything themselves, when they may well qualify for support. The system is too complex and delivery of information and advice is patchy, so many lose out on benefits to which they are legitimately entitled.

“These benefits are meant to be universal and based on need, rather than means tested but confusion about eligibility reigns and many families continue heroically funding their relatives care costs, when the NHS or the State should be contributing. Labour’s scaremongering attack on the Government’s reforms only reinforces the myth that if you have assets of more than £23,250 you must fund everything yourself. It is not true for everyone now and it won’t be true when the Social Care Bill comes into effect in 2016.”

The second reading of the care bill takes place today in the House of Commons.