Care funding: a ‘postcode lottery’, report says

Which? submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request to 180 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The information released showed huge variations in the standard weekly rate councils contribute to the funding of residential care.

In addition to the disparities between north and south, the consumer watchdog discovered that there could be a lot of variation between authorities in close proximity to one another. In Greater London there is a difference of £138 for the standard weekly rate between neighbouring boroughs Bromley (£555) and Croydon (£417).

The research found that 36 per cent of councils have a maximum standard rate of £434 for personal care, with 53 per cent paying up to between £435 to £539. Furthermore, 11 per cent of councils paid a maximum of more that £540, with the highest incidence occurring in Lewisham, a maximum of £768.

Half of residents have a local authority to subsidise half or all social care fees, yet it can be very expensive for those living in areas where the local authority contributes a low amount.

The report found that there were big differences between the standard rate some councils pay and what the cost would be to self-fund. For example, in Exeter the council council pays £442-£471 per week, while fees for self funders were between £300-£1,200.   

To an extent, the variation is due to factors such as local wages, property prices and partly about individual councils negotiating costs with care homes when they bulk-purchase.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “Understanding the options available for long-term care can be a minefield, particularly with such huge variations in the funding available.

“People looking to make difficult decisions about care should use free, independent sources of advice, like Which? to help them find the information that’s relevant to their situation.”

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