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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 00:30 GMT 01:30 UK
Councils 'must spend more on care homes'
Many homes have closed in recent years
The government needs to spend an additional 1bn each year on care homes if a crisis is to be averted, independent experts have warned.

A report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggests hospitals will come under greater pressure and older people will suffer emotional and financial distress unless the care home budget is increased.

The report, by analysts Laing & Buisson, suggests the money paid by local authorities for care home places is insufficient and needs to rise by almost 15%.


The fees paid to independent care homes by councils throughout Britain typically fall well below a level that offers an adequate return to owners

William Laing, report author
It warns that unless additional money is pumped into the sector more homes will close.

Hundreds of care homes have closed in recent years with owners blaming rising costs, lower profit margins and the burden of government regulations.

Higher fees

William Laing, the report's author, suggested that the fees paid by councils do not reflect the cost of running homes.

He called for fees to nursing homes to be increased from 385 per person per week at present to 459.

Similarly, he suggested fees for residential homes should rise from 268 to 353 per person per week.

Mr Laing added that increasing fees would ensure homes stayed open and would provide elderly people with a greater choice over where they live.

"This study demonstrates that the fees paid to independent care homes by councils throughout Britain typically fall well below a level that offers an adequate return to owners and operators," he said.

"Our ability to offer quality and choice to older people now depends on providing a stable and competitive care homes sector.

"Failure to do so will place greater pressure on the NHS hospitals and create further emotional and financial distress for older people who need residential care and their families."

Health Minister Jacqui Smith said: "I know from talking to care home representatives and social services departments that they are concerned that fee levels increase to keep good homes in business and to ensure older people get the choice of a care home place when they need it.

"This is why we responded with an extra 300m for local authorities to build capacity locally."

She added: "The Chancellor's Budget announcement of a doubling of annual increases in social services funding for the next three years will give social services departments the money they need to build care capacity in the future."

Political criticism

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "For the government, the report is a stark reminder that their is no point investing disproportionately in the acute sector, to chase ministerial targets, while at the same time under-investing in the care carried out in the community for some of our most vulnerable people."

The Liberal Democrats are planning to petition Downing Street on Wednesday to introduce free long term personal care for the elderly in England.

Free long term personal care is being introduced in Scotland. However, ministers have so far rejected calls to extend it south of the border because of fears over cost.

The Lib Dems' spokesman on older people, Paul Burstow, said the report was a "damning indictment" of government policy and that a lack of long term planning had led to a "care meltdown".

"Thousands of beds have already been lost and it is too late to stop the closure of thousands more," he said.

"Without significant increases in local authority fee levels, more care home residents will be forced to pack their bags and find a new home. The government should have acted months ago, now it must act immediately."

An Age Concern spokeswoman said: "The government has to loosen its purse strings so that local authorities can give a decent quality of care to older people."

See also:

30 Sep 01 | Health
26 May 02 | Health
11 Mar 02 | Health
28 Jan 02 | Health
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