Thousands of older people living in care homes in England are receiving only a weeks notice before their care costs rise, according to a new report by a leading advice charity.
An analysis by Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) found that as many as 22,000 elderly care home residents have seen costs increase by an average £900 in the last year. Elderly care home residents in one region saw their costs rocket by a shocking £2,000.
The charity says that whilst fees are normally based on a weekly rate, mostly paid by direct debit, an investigation of 404 care homes across England revealed that one in eight only offer a weeks notice before increasing prices.
Citizens Advice claims that in many cases residents have no option other than to pay the higher price, at an average £52 extra per month. They further warn that cost rises can lead to potential debt issues, with some residents facing the threat of eviction if they are unable to afford the higher costs.
Citizens Advice says the number of people approaching the charity for advice on care home residency costs has increased by 12% to 8,700, while they have also helped with 18,000 community care issues in 2015 – up 5% on the previous year.
The charity’s report – Hidden Charges In Care Homes – shows that thousands of older people and their families are given little time to establish whether rises in care costs are fair and warranted. For many of those affected, looking for alternative providers may not be a viable option, due to possible distress and disruption this may cause.
The CAB’s research also reveals that residents and their families are being asked to pay arbitrary ‘undisclosed’ costs, which are not made clear at the initial point of contact. These include:
- Having someone accompany the resident on visits to the GP or the dentist can cost as much as £50 an hour.
- Three out of ten care homes (30 per cent) do not include contents insurance for people’s personal items in weekly care fees.
- Two thirds of care homes (67 per cent) do not include telephone use in weekly care fees.
Care home residents and their families should be given at least four weeks notice before price rises, the CAB says.
They are also calling for the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate how well the care home market is performing, as well as the introduction of a simpler complaints system, and whether people are given sufficient opportunity to freely choose between competitors.
“People in care homes are at the mercy of price rises”, says CAB Chief Executive Gillian Guy.
“A week’s notice puts enormous pressure on care home residents or their families to pay. It is unreasonable for vulnerable people to face such a small window to compare costs and make alternative arrangements if they cannot afford the higher fees.”
“Some people are also being caught out by hidden extra care fees appearing on their bill. Nobody can be expected to budget for extra costs that are not clearly set out by the provider.
She added: “There should be a minimum amount of time care homes can give notice of a price rise and the Competition and Markets Authority should look into whether the care home market is working well for people paying for its services.
“Clearer guidance is also needed on extra care costs so those paying are not landed with shock bills.”