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Care Homes: Fees and Charges

Volume 458: debated on Monday 26 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what estimate she has made of the number of people in residential care homes of whom third-party top-up fees are (a) sought and (b) received; what estimate she has made of the average top-up fee paid in respect of such people; and what steps the Government are taking to prevent such fees being regressive; (124713)

(2) if she will bring forward proposals to reduce the number of care home residents who are affected by third-party top-up fees; and if she will make a statement.

This information is not collected centrally in the form requested. However, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) conducted a United Kingdom wide survey of ‘Care Homes For Their Care Homes For Older People in the UK’ report, published in May 2005. The OFT found that the average care home in the UK had 32 places of which 29 were occupied. Of these, seven, around 24 per cent. were paid for by a combination of the local authority and a third-party top-up. The UK average third-party top-up was £65.33p a week.

The detail of contracting arrangements between local councils and care homes is a matter for local decision. The Government do not set or recommend rates at which councils contract with care homes. We think it is important that councils are able to tailor contracts to specific local circumstances. However, the Government have made available record levels of funding for social care. Since 1997, Government grants for local services, including social care, have increased by £28.4 billion or 39 per cent. in real terms.

This substantial funding is making a real difference. Although, in their annual ‘Care of the Elderly: UK Market Survey 2006’ report, independent market analysts Laing and Buisson reported that around half of local authorities increased the fees they pay to care homes by less than 3.5 per cent. This follows a three year period, 2002-03 to 2004-05 during which Laing and Buisson reported that payments increased at an unprecedented rate. This is clear evidence that local authorities have been using the additional resources provided by central Government to increase payments to care homes and rebalance the care home market.