Home care costs soar over 10,000: Elderly left struggling to pay bills as town halls drive up charges

Blow follows as millions of elderly continue to struggle with rising food and energy bills

Around half a million elderly and vulnerable people are being hit with soaring costs to pay for basic support in their own homes, figures have revealed.

The cost of home care has now topped more than 10,000 a year in some areas as councils increase charges for services such as bathing, cleaning and help with shopping.

A survey of local authorities has also revealed a postcode lottery with wide disparities in the levels of services provided.

Concern: Soaring living expenses are proving difficult for pensioners

Concern: Soaring living expenses are proving difficult for pensioners

The figures will fuel concerns that local authorities are using taxpayers as ‘cash cows’ by quietly increasing the price of their services to claw back money in the wake of Government cuts.

The poll of town halls shows that the average charge for home care has this year soared to 13.49 an hour – a rise of 6 per cent in the last two years.

The increase means the average yearly cost for an older or disabled person who pays for ten hours of home care a week is now 7,015 a year.

The poll shows huge differences in the price of care around the country.

An elderly person living in Cheshire East has to pay 20.34 per hour for home care – or 10,577 per year for ten hours a week. In contrast, those in Tower Hamlets, East London, get it for free.

Meanwhile, the price of meals-on-wheels lunches or dinners has increased by 13 per cent in two years to 3.44 per meal and the average charge for transport to a day centre has soared by 33 per cent to 2.32.

Older or disabled people who get meals on wheels every day as well as home care now pay an average of 8,271 a year. Those who also need transport three times a week pay 8,633 a year.

The figures come at a time when millions of elderly people living below the poverty line are already struggling with the rising cost of food and energy bills.

Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, who commissioned the survey of 153 local authorities in England, said: ‘These increases in home care charges for older and disabled people are a stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society.

Concern: Soaring living expenses are proving difficult for pensioners

Concern: Soaring living expenses are proving difficult for pensioners

‘More people have to pay more for vital services such as help getting up, washed and dressed, meals on wheels, and transport to day centres. These services are a lifeline for older and disabled people.

‘Brutal cuts to funding for local council services for older people – 1.3billion already this Parliament – are pushing up charges and placing an even greater burden on the people who most need help.’

Some councils limit the weekly costs people are required to pay, ranging from a cap of 105 per week in Hackney, North-East London, to 900 per week in Brighton and Hove.

But the figures also show that four out of ten councils have abolished their caps on charges, while a further four in ten have increased their limits – leaving the elderly and disabled to pick up the extra costs.

The survey also indicates that the number receiving services free of charge has dropped by more than 15 per cent since 2009/10.

Last year, a total of 540,000 people received home care through councils – of whom 435,000 were older people.

The figures came as the head of Britain’s leading age charity warned that cuts to social care services mean that the country’s elderly are facing an ‘absolute crisis’.

Age UK’s director, Michelle Mitchell, said increase numbers of elderly people with considerable care needs were getting ‘absolutely no support at all’ or ‘poor quality and limited support’ from local authorities.

The charity has warned that councils have been withdrawing home help over the last five years.

A recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that elderly people are being robbed, left hungry and unwashed in their own homes by council home-care providers.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The Government is providing an extra 7.2billion over the next four years to local councils so that they can protect services that support vulnerable people.

‘Local authorities are responsible for non-residential care. Any charges they choose to make must be fair and affordable.

‘We will set out proposals for social care reform in a White Paper next year.’