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BRING ALL CARE INTO THE PUBLIC NHS

Care home residents foot £100 a week for coronavirus costs

Older people and families asked to pay bill on top of usual fees as homes reel from cost of PPE and staff absences

A resident of Eskgreen Care home.

A resident of Eskgreen care home. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Some older people who fund their own care home fees are being forced to pay a steep and unexpected coronavirus bill by their care provider, it has been revealed.

Older people and their families are being asked to pay more than £100 a week on top of their usual care home fees, with homes saying the cost of PPE and staff absences could push their finances into the red, threatening their sustainability. 

“Older people living in care homes and their families have been through the mill these last few months,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. “It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.”

Abrahams said that central government should meet care homes’ extra costs. “Otherwise there’s a risk that some homes could fold, leaving their residents homeless,” she warned.

Judy Downey, chair of the Relatives & Residents Association, said: “The R&RA, like the Competition and Markets Authority, takes a very dim view of care providers who exploit the vulnerabilities of older people. 

“This is particularly distressing at such a stressful time when most residents have little knowledge of their contractual rights,” she added. “Contracts must not be unfair or misleading and must justify any new charge. Forcing residents with little or no alternative to accept unanticipated costs may be exploitative and unfair. It may also be unlawful. We urge all families in this position to contact us or the CMA urgently for further advice.”

Margaret, in her 90s, is living in a care home while her husband, Mo, also in his 90s, still lives in their family home, paying for Margaret’s care with their life savings. A week ago Mo was told that he will need to pay an extra £100 per week so that the care home can cover the costs of PPE and agency staff. “I’m really worried about what this will mean for Margaret when we run out of savings,” he said.

Care providers have been faced with significant challenges in trying to stop coronavirus spreading. With 39% of all care homes – or more than 6,000 in England – reporting an outbreak, many are now facing additional expenses. Reports suggested costs are more than 30% higher than usual, and that as many as 20,000 care homes may go out of business without urgent additional support. 

The government has allocated £1.6bn to councils and set up a £600m Infection Control Fund to help them meet the extra costs of the pandemic. But there have been complaints from some care homes that their councils – some of which are also at risk of serious financial problems – have failed to pass on the cash.

Prof Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “What we needed was money going directly to care homes to offset the enormous extra costs associated the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet again, we see self-funders suffering because the government refused to deliver the money directly to care providers, and local authorities are abandoning self-funders.”

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