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Councils planning sharp rise in care home fees

Councils are planning a sharp rise in care home fees to counter Government cuts and a rapidly aging population, it emerged today.

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Lord Warner said the amount of money currently available for look after elderly people was 'too small' and would have to increase

Almost nine out of 10 local authorities confirmed proposals to charge more for residential accommodation to plug a huge budget shortfall, figures show.

Other councils are planning to shut centres altogether or dramatically tighten up the eligibility for places over coming years.

The disclosure will fuel warnings over a crisis in care for the elderly.

It follows warnings last year that growing numbers of pensioners are being forced to sell their homes to cover expensive care home fees amid spiralling costs.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow care services minister, who obtained the latest figures, said the Government was failing to protect social care.

She claimed front-loaded cuts were “too deep for local authorities to develop new services and retain partnerships with the voluntary sector”.

“The Tory-led Government’s approach means huge changes are being brought in very quickly, giving little time for consultation with staff and service users,” she said. “On top of this, Local Authorities are faced with the confusion of David Cameron’s wasteful top-down reorganisation of the NHS, which means that they are unable to plan for the long term.”

Miss Thornberry’s office surveyed 50 councils providing care services.

Almost all said they were being forced to make sweeping changes to residential accommodation because of a combination of cuts and increasing pressure on services.

Some 88 per cent confirmed plans to increase care charges. A quarter of these were pegging increases to inflation, but others were introducing new and additional charges, raising or abolishing the maximum contribution from users or making other increases.

Almost two-thirds of councils said they were being forced to close care homes or day centres to save money.

Many confirmed plans to close homes in the next two years, while others said money was being saved by putting more emphasis on providing services in residents’ own homes.

A previous survey carried out by the Care and Support Alliance, whose members including more than 40 leading charities, has found that 23 per cent of disabled and older people have already seen their services cut.

Many said they can no longer afford essentials such as food and heating as a result of having to pay for care, while more than half said their health had suffered after support was reduced.

Paul Burstow, Minister of State for Care Services, said: “Under Labour social care was always the poor relation. Under the Coalition social care is receiving a £2bn spending boost including an unprecedented transfer of funds from the NHS to support integration.

“In 13 years Labour failed to reform the way we fund social care. Labour’s survey results are the product of that failure. Without the Coalition’s decision to priorities social care Labour’s legacy of underfunding would have been even greater.

“We are determined to put in place a lasting and fair settlement to the funding question. This Government has acted quickly to set up the Dilnot Commission on funding.”

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