/ Health

Elderly care – it’s a postcode lottery

Elderly care home

Elderly care is a contentious subject. Residential fees are so high that many sell their home to pay them, while the cost of care in your own home varies enormously, depending where you live. So can you get fair care?

It’s well-known that social care (help with getting out of bed, getting washed, having a meal) is free in Scotland, while in England and Wales most councils charge for it. What’s less widely appreciated is that rates vary enormously, from £5 to £20 per hour. Not everyone pays this, as care is means tested.

The cost of care

Care is provided free to those with less than £14,250 savings and charged at a reduced rate to those with under £23,250. Those above the upper threshold are expected to pay the full rate, although some councils cap their weekly charge. In Barnsley the limit is £60, but if you live in Brighton it’s a shocking £850. In many places there’s no cap at all.

As if this wasn’t enough, councils also operate a system of ‘needs rationing’. Before you receive any help, you’re required to have a formal ‘needs assessment’. This appraises your needs as ‘critical’, ‘substantial’, ‘moderate’ or ‘low’.

A recent Which? Money survey found that 70% of councils now restrict care to those with critical and substantial needs. Three authorities will only assist those with critical needs.

Is there any hope for the elderly?

Despite council cutbacks, there are still four authorities which meet moderate and low needs too. Sunderland’s Director of Health, Housing and Adult Services explained why:

‘…not only is prevention better than cure in terms of quality of life, but also in relation to the economics of the situation. The approach over the past two years has seen the admission rates of people to specialist care steeply declining.’

Reviewing such a complex and problematic subject, it’s easy to think that things can only get worse. In many places, they might. But Sunderland – and other authorities like it – show that it isn’t hopeless.

Progress can be made, even in the most challenging circumstances. Wouldn’t it be good if next year’s survey found that scores of others had decided to follow suit?


What is far worse – is that if you are elderly and go into long term care then you are charged up to £30,000 a year (here) until the council has sold off all your assets – except for £16,000 – including your house.

Yet that same care is totally free for a younger person. Why?

That is why I took steps to ensure I have no assets. I moved all assets to my children years ago. So I am penniless except for my pension.

I have thought this totally wrong ever since I heard about it – It seems it’s fine for the really wealthy – they can afford £30,000 – It’s fine for the poor – Their long term care is free. But if you have scrimped and saved all your life to help your children and amass some money to make your retirement comfortable – you are penalised.

Margaret mc vay says:
22 February 2015

Totally agree with everything you have said. If you live in Birmingham they now ask the family’s to put towards their elderly parents bills.