Warning Over Cost Of Care For Elderly

Thousands of families may be forced to pay “top-up fees” for the care of elderly loved ones due to a multi-million-pound shortfall in government funding.

Officials have warned that Norfolk – home to the country’s fastest ageing population – could not keep pace with the increasing financial strain on the care industry. Unless the government’s financial settlement with Norfolk County Council increases dramatically in coming years, elderly people and their families could be forced to foot the bill.

John Sharples, chairman of the Norfolk Joint Care Partnership, said: “It is generally recognised that there is a gap between what is being paid by the local authority and what is needed to cover the cost of providing what is quite expensive care. Unless millions of pounds more each year are invested into social services, it simply isn’t going to be possible to meet the region’s increasing needs.”

Chris Mowle, cabinet member for adult social services, said that without increased investment future needs could only be met by part-funding beds, with service users picking up the remaining costs.
“It is already happening – in some cases we can only meet some of the cost and the remainder is met by users,” he said. “But that is a situation I would envisage becoming more widespread over the next five to 10 years.”

An extra 653 beds will be needed across the county within 10 years to provide for dementia sufferers – who require additional nursing – alone. Thousands more will require care in their own home and extra provision will be needed for those with other conditions, with particular demand in Norwich along with north and north-west Norfolk.

Mr Sharples said: “Independent care homes across the county are currently in talks with the council to achieve a fair price for their services. We have a good understanding with the authority but it is hamstrung by the lack of government funding. Ultimately it could come down to a question of quantity over quality. Ministers need to realise that quality has a price.”

The council met the Joint Care Partnership recently as part of an ongoing attempt to find a solution.

Mr Mowle said many services, such as home care, did not involve significant investment and therefore plans could be made for the future. However, care home places are more expensive meaning long-term planning is necessary. Social services chiefs are already drafting plans to modify existing council run care homes but this will only go some of the way towards easing the situation.

Mr Mowle added that the Commission for Social Care Inspection recognised the extent of the problem but there was little hope of increased investment in the immediate future.
“We will lobby the government for more funding but, for the next two years at least, we are not hopeful it will be forthcoming,” he said. In the longer-term it is possible that extra money will become available but we need to start planning for the future now. Norfolk has the fastest ageing population in the country, partly because it is such a great place to retire. But it is time the government matched the scale of the problem with resources.”

The claims come after the EDP reported that the number of people in Norfolk aged over 85 with severe dementia is expected to rise from 1,666 today to an estimated 2,137 by 2016. There will also be thousands of people with the early signs and mild forms of dementia who will need the care and support of their relatives or day care services. According estimates there may be 16,889 people aged 65 and over suffering from dementia in Norfolk by 2016 compared with 13,760 today.