/ Money

Do you know how much care costs in your area?

It’s well known that care home costs can be high, but do people really know the full extent of what they might have to pay?

Our latest research indicates that more than half of the population seriously underestimate just how expensive care homes can be – on average, by the equivalent of £12,000 per year.

When we asked people to estimate the cost of a private nursing home place in their region, 55% came up with a figure that fell short of the average cost.

One in 10 even underestimated the true cost by a whopping £737 per week, or £39,000 per year, running the risk of serious financial problems in later life, or a lower likelihood of receiving good quality care.

Unrealistic expectations

Would you know how much a nursing home is likely to cost in your area?

Our research showed that Londoners have the most unrealistic expectations, underestimating the cost of a nursing home place by an average of £540 a week: £28,101 a year.

People in the East Midlands were the nearest to reality with a £74 shortfall of the real figure. This still amounts of an annual shortfall of £3,848.

We’ve launched a simple and free online cost of care and eligibility tool on the Later Life Care website (formerly Which? Elderly Care) to help you and your loved ones easily calculate the likely cost of care in your local authority as well as eligibility for local authority support and funding options.

What if I run out of money?

We know that a lot of people worry about what will happen if they run out of money while living in a care home.

With this in mind we’ve built a calculator that sits in the same tool that will tell you how long your savings and assets are likely to last.

We know from your response to Joanna Pearl’s Conversation in August that you think care homes should provide clearer information about costs to help you make a choice.

Our cost of care tool

We had set out to build our cost of care tool to cover the whole of the UK, but quickly came up against a barrier – getting hold of the average fees that care homes charge self-funders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland just isn’t available. Reluctantly, then, we’ve had to build the tool to cover England only.

We know this is unfair and are supporting the CMA to encourage care homes to be more transparent about how much they charge people so that everyone can make a more informed choice.

What other information would you like to see made available by care homes to help make such an important decision? How are you planning to pay for care costs should they arise? Have you run out of money to fund your care?


Can we please see the questions asked and also how the survey was constructed. I would not expect anybody under 50 to have the slightest interest in these fees unless need arose so would think any guesses would be wrong.

BTW is there much discussion between Which? and the genuine charities like AgeUK?

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@emma-callery, Emma, out of the 700 000 which? subscribers there must be a fair number who have relatives in care homes and either pay for them, know or could find out the charges. Can you not ask them – online and through the magazine?

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Finding out the state funding thresholds has been fairly easy over the years but if you are receiving full public support you have little choice in the particular establishment that you will be placed in because that will be determined by the social services department.

If you are fully self-funding, and therefore have a free choice and want to make comparisons, discovering how much you would actually have to pay to occupy a residential care home has always been difficult unless you or your relative are actually intending to take a place and will participate in an interview.

I regularly visit a private residential care home to attend meetings of a voluntary organisation I belong to and have yet to find any literature in the reception hall that lists the fees and charges. People also overlook the fact that money is also needed every week for personal needs, clothing, toiletries, hairdressing, chiropody, travel, and any other expenses. The state retirement pension might cover those items but that would still leave the care home costs to be funded from any occupational pension, income from savings and investments, or capital [e.g. from the sale of property]. Those moving out of private rented accommodation into a care home would probably face a steep increase in outgoings although they might be less likely to have substantial capital and therefore might be eligible for full or partial state funding.

Given that people are expected to make financial provision until the end of their life for their accommodation needs, the lack of awareness and preparedness for the cost of living in residential care is most unfortunate. While I agree with Patrick that people under 50 are unlikely to take much interest in this question, that is a very short-sighted and unsatisfactory situation that society should seek to remedy through education and awareness.

I am all in favour of consumer education but believe sensationalist articles on how ignorant people are of costs is not actually that useful. Particularly if the people surveyed would be unlikely to have a clue because for an enormous number of people there is small hope of preparing for old age care in any meaningful way.

If one objectively looked at the current level of savings possible, unemployment, and a future where jobs will be deskilled or replaced by robots it does seem almost irrational to expect forward planning other than to try to earn as much as possible.

I return to the fact that we do not seem to have a very rounded view presented to us on the whole matter such as how other countries manage, the social and tax systems that might be borrowed for use in the UK. I a sure there is research available and useful lessons but Which? has not linked or presented any of it.

Are alms houses and expectations of family support, or living with family going to be the solution? Training in elderly care and area support groups might be the things to offer as the population of aged increases with little money in the pot. Or increased taxation for a specific social fund, or the lottery solely for care.

Solutions are tougher but more useful than simply saying how woeful people are at judging current prices of a particular service.

It seems to be a rather common approach; “how bad things are”, that “something must be done”, but no real thought-through proposals about possible solutions and by whom.

That is hard work, of corse. An area that willing, experienced and interested Convo contributors and Which? Members could help with if the resource was properly used?

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I agree in principle that families should take care of their own; your parents devoted time and effort to raise you, and they deserve the same treatment when they become dependent.

However, that can be problematic in our society when both partners in a family work, and when so many families move apart geographically.

I would certainly rather see more “at home” care of a decent standard being provided, funded privately where the means exist, just like care homes, to hopefully ensure the help is of good quality.

Until we become a more prosperous country, or decide to switch our spending in favour of social care from causes I consider less important, we must face up to using our savings to pay for care where that money is available.

Duncan: couple of things… Average life expectancy in Russia and Mongolia has only recently reached 70; for many years it was below 65, so ‘elderly Russians’ are something of a rarity. Our life expectancy is 81, so we will tend to have far more elderly and infirm folk needing care.

But I don’t agree entirely with Malcolm’s comment “your parents devoted time and effort to raise you, and they deserve the same treatment when they become dependent.”. Parents generally choose to become parents and assume the responsibilities that choice entails. Their children, on the other hand, did not choose to be born,neither did they choose the set of parents they have, so I can’t agree that the implication of the comment “they deserve the same treatment when they become dependent” is valid. We should never expect anything of our children.

Frankly, if either of us become incapable of climbing a mountain each day then we’ll make a quick exit.

I wonder how many families feel no wish at all to help either their parents, siblings or children? Maybe my family is on its own, but we’ve all been there for each other in good times and bad for nothing more than a wish to be involved. Expectation didn’t enter into it.


Will you be able to answer the first post in the Conversation as to providing a link to the actual survey.

Hi, just to build on Emma’s contribution, I thought you would also be interested in our recent policy report on social care: https://www.which.co.uk/policy/public-services/3203/beyond-social-care-keeping-later-life-positive

Duncan – the piece by Sean Hennessy that you have quoted is a reasonable social opinion commentary [subject to the lifespan qualifications mentioned by Ian] but I feel he is wrong when he says “In Britain alone over half a million elderly people are put into care homes rather than helped to remain independent, and that figure is growing year by year“. There might well be that number of people in care homes but it is an exaggeration to say that they have all been put there. A very large number have decided of their own volition to take up residence in a care home because it relieves them of a number of life’s chores and burdens and because they can afford it. They might not be in need of much care initially but anticipate that they might become more dependent later. There is quite a range of different care home styles available to suit all segments of the market – it is, after all, a largely commercial activity.

Another related point is that many elderly people do not have children [not siblings – a word misused by Hennessy; siblings are brothers and sisters] who can look after them or who have “put them in a care home”. They have had to make their own arrangements and would normally do so with the assistance of their social services department which would ensure that a proper assessment was made as to the suitability of accommodation and that access to any funding was provided subject to eligibility.

If I need to go into a care home then I hope that the sale of my home and my pension will provide the funding. The people who we need to be most concerned about are those who do not own their own homes.

It’s worth being aware of cost of care homes in your area but the big uncertainty seems to be getting a place in a decent home. A friend found that the waiting list for one highly recommended care home was two years, which proved fairly accurate. By the time a place became available it would have been too much of an upheaval to move her father. John makes an important point about the additional costs that must be met.

I agree with your point about those not owning their own homes. If they have been financially unable to save for their care in later life, or have chosen not to, then they are facing a difficult future.

If they are living in rented accommodation then the money they pay in rent and for cooking, heating lighting, insurance, water and council tax will be saved and will have to form the basis of their weekly or monthly care homes fees. They would probably also have a state retirement pension, possibly an occupational pension, and perhaps some savings. If they have assets below the threshold and have been in receipt of housing benefit and council tax relief then the chances are that they will be eligible for full or partial funding for a place in a care home. Their situation will not be wonderful but they should be able to live within their means in a satisfactory establishment.

I have mentioned before how 1047 homes were surveyed by members of 114 Que Choisir groups one autumn in 2015. This followed on from 1355 checked in 2014 and a history daying back to 2000.

Funny how you might think that organisationally Which? separates itself from subscribers and never uses them other than as providers of survey results.

The removal by Which? of subscriber comments has now reminded me that the surveys are also flawed and I will now stop answering them. How many of the nominally 40,000 Connect[ors] were also the type of people who read the Which? reviews one might think quite high.

Anyway as to the French consumer body and their ratings and rating criteria

The note is based on several questions : the presence of private sanitary facilities, the possibility to furnish the room to its desire, and its pleasant side. We have given equal weight to each of these points.

The assessment is based on five criteria: the proximity of shops and services, public transport, the presence of a garden or park, the development of small friendly spaces, the condition of the buildings and the living environment as a whole, two last points to which we have given more importance.

Daily life
The note focuses on six aspects of the residents ‘ lives : introducing newcomers to other residents to facilitate their integration, the possibility of inviting their loved ones to lunch, the rhythm of activities (other than reading and games), the number of outings organized per year, the involvement of volunteers, and finally intergenerational contacts. We put more weight on the pace of activities and the number of trips.

The latter assessment is based on three points: the availability of the interlocutor during the interview, the question of the consent of the future resident and the visit of the premises (whether total, partial or impossible). The same emphasis is placed on each of these points.”

As for seeking homes this seems quite slick:

Rita Frazer says:
23 March 2020

I am self funded and live in a care home in Bournemouth with my husband who has dementia. Neither of us need nursing care but we pay over £123.000 a year and fees are increased each year by 3%. Care Homes privately owned should be regulated by the Government who, at present, are completely out of touch with fees in this part of the country. Fees are less if funded by the Local Authority. We are expected to fund ouselves for many “extras” that should be included taking into account the fees charged.

One of the problems at the moment is that many people including my sister in law for her mother are looking at live in care as an alternative to care homes, but councils have very different approaches as to whether they will fund it, even following Coronavirus. https://myhometouch.com/articles/will-the-council-pay-for-live-in-care Often they won’t fund even when the family don’t wish to choose a care home.