Exclusive: Growing lottery of care for elderly in Yorkshire

VULNERABLE people across Yorkshire face growing inequalities in accessing vital care services, leaving many to shoulder huge help bills, the Yorkshire Post can reveal today.

Thousands of frail elderly people are being denied access to basic council homecare services because their problems are not judged severe enough.

Others are left paying unlimited amounts for help in getting up, dressing and eating – at the same time as others pay maximum fees of less than £100 a week.

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A landmark review will on Monday propose major reforms to social care funding including a maximum cap paid by individuals of between £35,000 and £50,000 for social care, the remainder being picked up by the taxpayer. National standards on eligibility for homecare will also be proposed.

Concerns have already been raised that Ministers will delay changes amid fears over extra costs to the public purse of £2bn a year and additional burdens to individuals.

But last night campaign groups demanded urgent reform to tackle a “postcode lottery of high charges and poor quality services”.

The costs of long-term care will soar in coming years as the population ages. Around one in 10 people can expect to pay more than £100,000 for care and one in 100 will need support amounting to more than £400,000.

Controversy has raged over thousands of people being forced to sell their homes to pay for residential or nursing care, while many are surprised to find huge bills for homecare.

A Yorkshire Post survey today finds access to council services has worsened with the spending squeeze as people are forced to pay more for means-tested homecare and fewer people are eligible for routine services.

In new charges introduced yesterday for homecare, people with savings of more than £23,250 in Barnsley will pay a maximum of £90 a week – up from £60 previously. But in the East Riding, North Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and York there is no limit for services which can cost up to £500 a week.

Council chiefs in Kirklees this week reversed a controversial decision to provide social care only to those whose needs are critical and will now join the majority of councils in the region providing care to those with substantial needs – leaving those with moderate or low needs to seek help elsewhere or go without.

Those paying for care also face major differences in rates for services, ranging from less than £10 an hour for homecare in Hull and Leeds to nearly £17 an hour in North Yorkshire.

Last night the Care and Support Alliance, which represents 25 campaign groups, called for major reforms to a system which meant councils provided different levels of care and left some people facing “catastrophic” costs.

It said: “Years of underfunding, compounded by cuts this year, mean that hundreds of thousands are going without vital support to eat, wash and live their everyday lives. The time is past for tinkering with a crumbling system and urgent, fundamental reform is needed. A central part of that, and our bottom line for reform, must be additional public funding.

“Hard choices need to be made about who pays, but we cannot afford for decisions to be postponed as too costly or too controversial. We all need a care and support system which protects families from catastrophic care costs, ends the postcode lottery and delivers fairness, dignity and independence.”

Mike Padgham, chairman of the UK Homecare Association which runs services on the Yorkshire coast, said: “Social care has never been properly funded, even in more prosperous times and now that spending is being slashed the situation has reached breaking point. Instead of talking about spending cuts, the Government should be investing the extra £2bn-£3bn needed on social care.”

Economist Andrew Dilnot, who is heading the review, has warned the elderly could be condemned to a worsening care system that risks bankrupting them and their families.