Free social care costs ‘significantly underestimated’

Ministers have ‘significantly underestimated’ the costs of providing free care to eldery people that are most in need, social services chiefs say.

A poll of directors of social services suggested providing care to those most in need costs £200 a week – double the government’s estimate.

The warning from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services comes ahead the House of Lords debate on the Personal Care at Home Bill, which requires councils to deliver an additional £250 million in efficiency savings.

According to the ADASS survey of 61 authorities, the ‘true cost’ of the policy could be a minimum of £1 billion, with the overall cost to local authorities rising to more than twice the £250 million originally calculated by the Government.

Calling for an urgent meeting with the Department of Health to help clarify the issues, ADASS president Jenny Owen said: ‘Government assumes that personal care needs can be met through an average package of 6.54 hours of care per week at £15.75 per hour amounting to £103 per week.

‘However, our research shows that local authorities have estimated a much more expensive average care package for a user with high needs. Information we have received from 61 authorities shows that the average cost of care is about £200 per week.

‘Also, the number of existing self-funders in any given area is often unknown, as is the number qualifying as eligible under the Fair Access to Care eligibility criteria.’

She added that if the final policy meant that people with critical care needs would not have to contribute to their care needs regardless of the cost, ‘then funding pressures on local government will clearly be well above the sum estimated by Government’.

’Councils will additionally have to bear the costs of undertaking an increased number of assessments as people currently paying for their care enter the system to claim their new, free entitlement.’

The widely-criticised Bill, which has described as ‘rushed through legislation’, is due to come into effect in October this year. A Green Paper is still out for consultation.

Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, rejected the criticisms on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Parliament has debated the funding of social care for many years and we have failed to act.

‘This is a simple, short Bill. I do not accept the claim that this has come out of the sky.’