Council Defends Elderly Spending

Elderly people living in care in Hartlepool receive one of the lowest council financial contributions in the North-East. But council chiefs today said the figures are misleading and do not take a number of factors into account. Hartlepool came third from bottom in a league table published by the general union (the GMB), which shows the average weekly cost per person for intensive social care spent by councils – the town’s council only paying more than Darlington and North Tyneside. The figures, provided by the Audit Commission, show that Hartlepool Borough Council pays an average weekly cost of £351 per person for those receiving care compared to Gateshead, which pays the highest amount at £485.

Durham County Council did not do much better, coming fourth from bottom and paying £365.

But a Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “It is impossible to use these figures to make direct comparisons between councils because they may include, for example, nursing costs, which some councils pay on behalf of their local primary care trusts (PCTs). In Hartlepool’s case it doesn’t – the PCT pays directly.”

He added that the Audit Commission, which also inspects the quality of services provided by the council, gave Hartlepool’s intensive adult social care the highest possible rating.

Senior organiser in the GMB care workers’ sector Billy Coates said the private sector nursing and residential care homes, which are provided by councils, are “the Cinderella service in the care sector of the economy”.

He called for more pay for care workers and said: “Councils need to understand that it is not possible to provide elderly residents with residential and nursing care on the cheap. The current regime of funding is exploiting the staff, which in turn means that the system is failing to provide a standard of care that the elderly and their families should be able to expect.”

The council spokesman added: “Naturally, we recognise the ever-increasing pressure on care home providers, including the need for increased wages for staff, which is why we have again increased our payment levels above inflation.”