The social care system has been branded “not fit for purpose” after new figures revealed elderly people are now paying up to £7,000 a year for home care services following council spending cuts.
Statistics released by the Labour following Freedom of Information requests showed marked rises in the cost of council services for elderly and disabled people over the past year, with a “postcode lottery” in the amount people are required to pay between different local authority areas.
Data from 93 councils across England showed there has been a 13 per cent rise in the cost of meals on wheels, with the price of a meal rising from £3.17 to £3.44.
There has also been a 33 per cent increase in transport fees, with the average cost of travel to places such as day care centres now standing at £2.32 per journey.
David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, accused the Government of underfunding local authorities, leaving “tough decisions” over the services they can provide.
“These results highlight what we already know – the current social care system is not fit for purpose,” he said. “It is underfunded and in need of urgent reform.
“Councils are committed to doing the very best for people in later life. But councils are facing the long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs and despite their best efforts, they are having to make tough decisions.”
Labour said the data also revealed huge pricing disparities across the country. People living in Tower Hamlets pay nothing for personal care, for example, while those in Cheshire East are charged more than £20 per hour.
Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, said: “These increases in home care charges for older and disabled people are a stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society.
“More people are having to pay more for vital services such as help getting up, washed and dressed, meals on wheels, and transport to day centres.
“These services are a lifeline for older and disabled people and are crucial in helping them live independently in their own homes.
“The Conservative-led Government is out of touch with the growing crisis in care. Their brutal cuts to funding for local council services for older people are pushing up charges and placing an even greater burden on the people who most need help.
But the Department of Health insisted care pricing was up to individual councils. A spokesman said: “Local authorities are responsible for non-residential care. Any charges they choose to make must be fair and affordable.
“The Government is providing an extra £7.2bn over the next four years to councils, so they can protect services that support vulnerable people.”