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Care home residents hit with ‘coronavirus bill’ as providers struggle – charity

By PA News
People in care homes are facing extra charges (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Care home residents are being asked to pay a “coronavirus bill” of more than £100 a week on top of existing fees to help social care providers stay afloat, a charity said.

Older people who pay for their care home fees are telling Age UK they are being presented with a “steep and unexpected” additional sum by their provider, amid rising staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) costs.

The charity has received calls to its advice line from self-funders saying they are being asked to pay an extra 15% per week, which amounts to an extra bill of £127.65 based on the average weekly fee of £851.

It is not clear how many care homes have asked self-funding residents to pay more.

It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill.
Caroline Abrahams

Care homes are having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds a month on acquiring PPE to prevent the spread of Covid-19 between staff, residents and visitors.

They are also having to pay for agency staff to fill in where their own staff are off sick or isolating.

In March, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimated that providers’ costs would rise between 30% and 40% to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

Separate analysis it undertook with the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests social care providers will experience £6.6 billion in potential extra costs between April and September.

Local authorities have been given £3.2 billion and the Government also announced a £600 million infection control fund, but social care providers have complained that much-needed funds are not reaching the front line.

Of the 400,000 people estimated to be living in care homes in England, 167,000 are believed to be self-funders and 45,000 part self-funders.

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “Older people living in care homes and their families have been through the mill these last few months as the virus has ripped through one in three of these settings, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

“It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.”

“Where care homes face extra costs on account of the pandemic it’s only fair that central Government ensures they are met – otherwise there’s a risk that some homes could fold, leaving their residents homeless. This would be bad enough at the best of times, let alone now when the virus continues to pose a threat, making it safest for everyone to stay put.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community well being board, said: “People living in care homes should not be penalised in this way and the cross-subsidy of fees by self-funders is one of the unfair aspects of the current system, which must be addressed as part of the long-term reform of social care.

“We know that care providers are facing extra costs during this time and we have worked closely with them since the beginning of the pandemic to understand what they are.

“The vast majority of councils have helped providers with these extra costs to the best of their ability, considering all of the evidence.”

The LGA added: “We look forward to working with Government on finding a solution to the immediate pressures facing the sector, including a significant further injection of funding, as well as agreeing a long-term, sustainable funding settlement for social care once this current crisis is over.”

The Department of Health and Social Care would not confirm whether it will provide more funds to councils, but said it will keep future funding needs under review.

A spokesman said: “We recognise that this pandemic is creating significant challenges for care homes and that extra support is needed to care for residents.

“We have now made £3.2 billion available to local authorities to address pressures on local services, including in adult social care. We have also provided a further £600 million to help reduce the infection rate in care homes. This funding is specifically ring-fenced for adult social care and we are writing to local authorities to confirm it is being spent in helping further protect those most in need.

“We are working closely with local authorities to ensure funding is distributed fairly and that it reaches the front line where it is needed most.”

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