It can be a daunting time for families placing a loved one into a care home, particularly in circumstances where that family member has lost the ability to make decisions for themselves. Aside from the health concerns that often bring about such a decision, there is the complex world of care fees to navigate.
The Breakdown on Care Fees
It is possible to ask care homes if they will give a breakdown of the fees charged, so that you can see exactly how the fees are being spent, and whether any Funded Nursing Care contributions are being made. The majority of care fees go on staffing costs, as the care industry is one of the largest employment sectors.
Residents need one-to-one (and sometimes two-to-one) attention from carers in tasks such as washing, dressing, toileting, eating, drinking, and movement. Specialist staff administer medication, dressings and attend to any other medical care needs. The average care resident requires at least two hours of personal attention every day, with some requiring much more than this. At £10 per hour, this amounts to £20 per day, or £140 per week.
Added to this are the administration, IT, cleaning, insurance, utilities, property maintenance and management costs of, for example £150 per week; 3 meals a day and other daily refreshments including the chef’s salary, at around £80 per week; staff training at £20 per week; and accommodation costs of approximately £180 per week. All of this accumulates to up to £570 per week as a minimum, and can vary considerably from home to home.
The “Private Rate” Scandal
Local Authorities are under a legal duty to fund care home places for residents who cannot afford to do so themselves. However, they cannot currently afford to pay the full cost for care homes. This is a political scandal, and an issue which successive governments have failed to tackle effectively.
What began as a “bulk buy” special offer by care homes to Local Authorities has escalated now to significant underfunding for socially funded residents. The majority of care placements are socially funded, and care homes simply can’t afford to turn them away and remain in business. Therefore, different strategies are adopted to make up for the shortfall in funding, such as charging a top-up fee to the resident’s family, and attracting as many private-paying residents as they are able to. The private residents are often charged an extortionately high rate, well above the true cost of care, to subsidise the other residents and to keep the care home in business.
High private rates in ordinary care homes can push up the prices at “luxury” care homes, as they do not need to drop their prices to compete. After all, if a poor-quality home is able to charge rates of £1,200 per week, why would a luxury home charge less? This would be good profit for them, as they are not subsidising any socially funded residents.
The Future of Care Fees
It is the job of politicians to end this unfair practice. In the meantime, take legal advice early to see whether there is anything that you can do to plan ahead. Beware of “Family Asset Protection Trusts” which sound too good to be true!