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Councils are flouting care home top-up fee rules

Local councils are failing to adhere to national legislation surrounding top-up payments for care home residents, the Independent Age charity has stated.

After lodging a request for data under the Freedom of Information Act, the charity found that 35% of local councils had not yet put in place a written agreement to be signed by a representative of the family when commencing a top-up fee arrangement.

37% of councils had also failed in their responsibility to undertake an annual review of such agreements, while 41% were arranged without the involvement of local authorities.

The law currently states that elderly people may qualify for supplementary payments from councils to support their care home fees if they have total assets worth less than £23,250. If a more expensive care home is wanted, then the difference can be settled through top-up payments from the family.

These top-up fees should only ever be paid voluntarily, and at least one option that does not require a top-up payment must be offered by councils whenever a person enters care. Nearly 50,000 people currently have a top-up agreement in place, which can run into hundreds of pounds per week. 

The Local Government Ombudsman has found that many councils have failed to give sufficient information on options available, while others have broken the law altogether and should offer compensation to affected families.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, stated: “These new rules make it crystal clear that councils are responsible for ensuring that care homes cannot charge unfair fees to families for their relative's care… Our research shows that many councils are failing to do this and there is therefore a real risk that families are paying for care that should be free.”

Fiona Lowry, our CEO, commented: “Finding care for a loved one can often be a confusing process for families, particularly if the decision has to be made at a time of crisis. It’s important that all necessary information is made available, so that you can reach an informed choice that’s best for your friend or relative. Live-in care at home is now comparable in cost to residential care-homes, and our research has shown that the higher quality of care provided by our highly-trained carers gives your loved one better quality of life and greater happiness and independence. Our Good Care Group experts can also help you with more information on funding and financial options.”