Home care on the cheap?

Councils across the UK are buying vital home help for elderly people on the cheap, the firms providing care say.

Thousands of vulnerable older people rely on councils to organise support for them for daily tasks such as washing, dressing and feeding. Research by the UK Homecare Association found only one in seven was paying a fair price for care.

UKHCA policy and campaigns director Colin Angel accused councils of buying care “on the cheap”. He said it was forcing a number of providers to hand back contracts or refuse to take them on as the prices did not cover “adequate wages and the costs of running safe and effective services”. He said that was having an impact on recruitment and retention and forcing services to cut back on the number and length of visits.

It said this meant visits were being cut short, but councils said they had insufficient money to pay more.

What did the research find?

More than 850,000 people are given support in their own home.

About 80% of this is organised by councils, which normally outsource the work to care agencies.

The UKHCA, the umbrella group for care firms, asked more than 200 councils and care trusts for information about how much they paid for care.

The average fee was £16.12 an hour, although in some places it was below £13.

The UKHCA said the minimum price was £18.01, once factoring in the cost of running the services and the wages for the care worker was considered.

Regionally in England, councils in the north-west and north-east had the lowest rates, while nationally in the UK, Northern Ireland paid the least.

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