Age UK says the families of a quarter of care home residents whose care is supposed to be free are being forced into paying top up fees.
The charity says this affects 50,000 families. Fees vary but come to thousands of pounds a year. Although they may be voluntary, families say they are forced to pay them and that the system is being abused.
Top up fees have traditionally been demanded when a resident wishes to be in a home that is above what the council can afford to pay. Top up fees are also being demanded when the cost of a care home which the council originally had enough money to fund has gone up and a self-funder has run out of money so they become eligible for free care, but need to pay a top up
Age UK says this is taking advantage of a law which was supposed to give older people more comfort and freedom. It is also holding up hospital discharge, as social services are unable to provide a free place so offering a top up place which families are unable to pay.
Age UK is demanding:
- Councils need to make people aware of independent information so they can make informed decisions.
- Costs need to be made clear. Councils should provide a statement setting out what they have paid for, including care and support, accommodation and ‘hotel costs’.
- Care home contracts should give residents much greater protection against eviction and should clearly set out the circumstances in which care homes can give them notice.