Councils accused of 'short-changing' elderly over £513m homecare deficit

HOMECARE for over half a million people is being put at risk because inadequate rates paid by councils will leave services with a £513m deficit in 2016-17, it has been claimed.

Freedom of Information requests sent to 208 local authorities by the UK Homecare Association show the average price paid for older people's homecare is £14.66 per hour in England, £14.99 in Wales, £14.74 in Scotland and £12.35 in Northern Ireland.

This compares with the association's Minimum Price for Homecare of £16.70 per hour, which is calculated to allow for sustainable care services while also complying with the National Living Wage introduced in April, as well as the voluntary Living Wage and London Living Wage.

The UKHCA said the report exposes a "postcode lottery" in the prices that individual councils are willing pay for essential care, even within the same region.

It is further proof of the genuine risks to the viability of homecare services, it added, and warned that if people who rely on them are "short-changed" by councils, it will pile avoidable additional pressure on hospitals and community-based health services.

Colin Angel, the association's policy director, said: "We know that an ageing population is increasing demand for homecare services. Councils which decide to pay inadequate rates for homecare are taking major risks with people's wellbeing and the jobs of local people who provide care.

"We have already seen evidence of homecare providers leaving the state-funded care market, or closing their doors for good because they cannot afford to remain in business.

"People who use homecare services are already experiencing the consequences of unstable care markets. Underfunded homecare is an urgent situation, which must not be allowed to continue."

Janet Morrison, chief executive of older people's charity Independent Age, said the report shows the adult care system is in crisis, with spending unable to cope with rising demand.  

"The impact of these pressures on the system can be seen through ever-increasing delays in discharging patients from hospital, a growing workforce gap in the care sector and, most importantly, older people not getting the care they desperately need," she said.

"We urgently need an open and honest conversation about how we adequately fund adult care both now and in the future."

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "As part of our Autumn Statement submission to the Treasury, we have found that based on 'fair price of care' calculations by care providers, the immediate pressures threatening the stability of the provider market could amount to at least £1.3bn.

"We also estimate that by 2019-20, a further £1.3bn will be required to deal with the additional pressures brought about by an ageing population, inflation and the cost of paying the National Living Wage.

"Councils, care providers, charities and the NHS are all united around the need for central government to fully fund adult social care. This is essential if we are to move away from just trying to keep people alive to ensuring they can live independent, fulfilling lives, as well as alleviating the pressure on the NHS.

"The care provider market cannot carry on as it is and there is a real danger of more widespread market failure. Either care is properly funded or providers will pull out of council contracts or in worst case scenario go bust. The market for publicly funded care is simply not sustainable as it stands."