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Families having to pay extra ‘stealth tax’ for state-funded social care

The families of around one in four care home residents are being forced to pay ‘top-up fees’ even though care for their loved one is supposed to be free.

In the latest ‘Behind the headlines’ report by Age UK, it was revealed that almost 50,000 families in the UK are having to pay fees which are meant to be voluntary.

But the charity claimed that in many cases this system is being abused, as families are forced to cough up for extra cash to look after their family member in care.

To qualify for state-funded support with care, families must show they have ‘modest’ assets, currently up to the value of £23,250. But even people who are passing this test are now having to pay a ‘stealth tax’, which can amount to anywhere between £25 to over £100 a week.

The charity stated that in theory top-ups can be a good idea, as they allow the person being cared for to decide if they pay more for better-quality care. But Age UK explained that the system is worryingly being exploited, with some having to pay these top-up fees even when they do not want to.

“This provision was designed to allow older people who want a little extra comfort or convenience to have it, through them adding to their council funding with a financial contribution from someone else who is willing and able to pay the additional amount,” the report explained – but added that sometimes, a lack of choice around care homes leaves poorer families with no choice but to pay extra money. 

A sign of ‘stark reality’ of social care crisis

Local councils have also described the new report as another indication of the “stark reality” facing adult social care, which is at a tipping point and desperately needs better funding.

“Councils want to do everything they can to make sure that those who move into a care home are close to their loved ones, and to minimise any stress and difficulties that this places upon families,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“The £2bn announced in the Spring Budget was a step in the right direction. But councils need to be given full freedom and flexibility to invest this in the areas where it is most needed. The recent announcement around how this should be spent shows this freedom is very much lacking.”

Cllr Seccombe added that even after this extra funding is accounted for, councils will still be facing an annual funding gap in social care of £2.3bn by 2020.

“It is absolutely critical that the government brings forward its consultation for social care announced in the Queen’s Speech, and that it works with local government leaders in delivering a long-term sustainable funding solution for social care,” she concluded.

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