Dozens of older people in Sheffield ‘wiped out financially’ by care bills
Dozens of older people in Sheffield fell on their local council for support over just two years after having their savings largely wiped out through paying for care, figures suggest.
Care groups hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's failure to detail long-promised social care reforms in the recent Queen’s Speech, which could reportedly include a cap on costs – first proposed a decade ago – to avoid people having to sell their homes to pay for care.
National guidance sets the thresholds for payment for care and advises that people who have over capital over £23,250 have to pay the full cost of their care.
People with less money than that may get help from the council depending on their circumstances.
The council offers support and advice through its social care advice service about what individuals have to pay and how they can maximise their income.
NHS Digital data shows that in Sheffield, around 75 people were classified as "self-funders with depleted funds" – those who had to fall back on council support after exhausting their assets paying for care – in the two years to March 31 2020.
Across England, some 10,800 over-65s requested local authority support for care costs over the same period after running down their savings and assets.
There were around 11,235 new requests for local authority support for people aged 65 and over in Sheffield in 2019-20.
The Queen confirmed proposals for social care reform will be brought forward as she set out the Government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday (May 11), but no further detail was given.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was an important step forward despite the lack of a clear plan.
She said: "Ministers have made it clear that they see a cap on sky high care costs as the centrepiece of their reforms, because it is so evidently unfair for anyone to be financially ruined by long term care bills."
"However, this is not the only unfairness in how care operates today, and it would be a bizarre outcome if we gave more protection to homeowners, while leaving those with fewer assets to the current underfunded system.
"There is no avoiding the need for the Government to invest billions more into care - topping council budgets back up again after having allowed them to fall so disastrously over the last decade."
The NHS figures, which cover care organised through the local authority, show that social care costs for over-65s have risen in recent years in Sheffield.
In 2019-20, the average weekly cost of a residential or nursing care place was £586 per person – £146 more than 2016-17 in real-terms.
That was lower than the England average of £679.
Overall, the council in Sheffield spent £81.6 million on care for older people in 2019-20, including income from people paying towards their own care, and other organisations.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman previously said: “Improving the adult social care system remains a priority for this government and we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“Throughout the pandemic we have provided almost £1.8 billion in specific funding for adult social care including infection prevention and control measures."