Council care system for elderly people has £1 billion shortfall

Scottish Government praised for action it is taking to address problems. Picture: Getty Images
Scottish Government praised for action it is taking to address problems. Picture: Getty Images
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The current system for providing care to elderly people has a £1 billion shortfall and “is not sustainable without additional funding”, the competitions watchdog has warned, following a year long investigation into the sector.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that uncertainty about future funding, including whether council fees will cover the full costs of care, currently means that there is not enough investment in new accommodation for council-funded residents.

Meanwhile, residents in Scottish homes are afraid to make complaints “for fear of reprisals”, the study said.

The report claimed that the basic information and support needed is often not available to help people navigate the system and make informed choices while going into care.

The final findings of the study said it had identified a funding shortfall of £1 billion a year across the UK because councils are paying fee rates for the residents they fund which are below the costs care homes incur. This, has, it said, led to care homes propping up their finances by charging higher prices – an average of £44,000 a year – to those who pay for their own care.

The report, however, praised the Scottish Government for action it has already taken to tackle the issues and said it wanted to wait until the initiatives had taken effect before making recommendations.

There are around 42,500 care home beds for the elderly in Scotland, 59 per cent of which are in nursing homes.

The report said that residents who are treated badly often find it difficult to make complaints.

It said: “While there has been a lot of work in Scotland by the Care Inspectorate (who will hear individual complaints) and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to simplify complaints systems generally, we have heard that care home residents can perceive complaints systems as complex to use, and they may not want to complain against their carers or they may fear reprisals.”

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Care homes provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. However, the simple truth is that the system cannot continue to provide the essential care people need with the current levels of funding.

“Without substantial reform to the way that councils plan and commission care, and greater confidence that the costs of providing care will be covered, the UK also won’t be able to meet the growing needs of its ageing population.”

Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets for consumer watchdog Which?, said: “These findings echo the heartbreaking stories we’ve heard from hundreds of people who have struggled to find appropriate local care for themselves or a loved one.”

The CMA said it had made recommendations to the Scottish Government, the Care Inspectorate, local authorities and Integration Joint Boards, as well as the industry across the UK to address the issues.” 

Health Secretary Shona Robison said that the current financial year would see almost half a billion pounds of frontline NHS spending in Scotland invested in social care services and integration.