Expats returning home to find a care home near friends and relatives face a funding lottery, according to new research.
More than 120 councils responded to a freedom of information inquiry asking them how much they pay towards funding social care.
The astonishing results revealed a lack of a funding policy across the country which could leave some vulnerable pensions haggling with their council over how much they will pay towards their long-term care.
How councils fund care costs
After analysing the responses, researchers found councils seem to have three funding policies:
- A published funding cap which will not be breached regardless of how much care costs:
The study found some councils, like Bury, will pay £460 a week, while others, like Luton, pay £736.
- A published funding ceiling which can be breached, depending on the merits of the case:
For instance, Oxfordshire County Council, which has a stated rate of £493 per week for residential care but breaches this in 94% of cases.
- No published rates, but funding agreed on a case-by-case basis
In this category, councils like Buckinghamshire County Council says the council has no fixed rate, but pays according to need.
“We have uncovered a disturbing patchwork of support for people needing residential care, which varies hugely depending on where you live,” said Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London, the provider carrying out the research.
Worries over care standards
“The most worrying variation is the extent to which residents are expected to haggle with the council in some parts of the country. While 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.”
The survey found that around a third of councils had a fixed limit which they never breach, while half had a limit which they routinely breached, and the remaining one sixth said everyone was treated on a case-by-case basis.