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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Elderly suffer care cost lottery
Elderly woman with nurse
Care costs can run into tens of thousands of pounds
Elderly people face a 'postcode lottery' when it comes to the cost of care at home, a charity has warned.

Charges for home care can vary greatly between UK local authorities, according to research from Age Concern.

Some local authorities charge elderly people nothing while others charge from 3.50 to 15.50 an hour for help with bathing, dressing and toileting.

The differences in charges fly in the face of Department of Health guidelines issued last April, Age Concern said.

'Grossly unfair'

The guidelines aimed to stop the variations in charges between local authorities for providing the same services as well as exempting people on a very low income.

But the charity warned that the cost of home care had rocketed for those that still had to pay since the new guidelines had been issued.

The government believes that it is fairer to spend the 1 billion cost of providing free personal care on improving services for all older people who need them
Stephen Ladyman MP, Health Minister

In the worst-case the cost of home care had increased by 261 a week in the past year, Age Concern said.

Age Concern added that the hourly charging structure adopted by local authorities was unfair as it hit people who needed the care the most.

In addition, the charity pointed out that many people who receive disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance and Severe Disability Premium, have them counted as income and clawed back through home care charges.

"The current system is grossly unfair to the majority of home care users, as well as being complex and intrusive," Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern England said.

In response, the government said its guidelines were helping ensure a fairer deal.

"Our new guidelines are ensuring that old people on low incomes don't have to pay council charges," Health Minister, Stephan Ladyman MP said.

"The government believes that it is fairer to spend the 1bn cost of providing free personal care on improving services for all older people who need them," the minister added.

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