The hidden costs of top up fees

According to new research, over a quarter (28 percent) of people in local authority-funded care homes are being forced to pay top up fees.

However, as local authorities fail to monitor and regulate top up fees, and don’t see the contracts negotiated between individuals and care homes, this figure could, in reality, be much higher.

While top up fees are only supposed to be paid if the care home is above and beyond the “standard” level of care provided by the council, this is not always the case.

With local authority baseline fee rates falling ever increasingly further behind the actual costs of residential care, some families are forced to pay top up fees simply because there are no suitable places in the area that will be covered by the standard fees alone.

However, in other cases, local authorities are purposely setting their standard rates too low in order to profit from top up fees by limiting their own expenditure.

In September 2012, Southampton city council was forced to refund the top up fees paid by an elderly woman’s family and compensate them for the time, trouble and distress caused.

In her report, the Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said that “because no accommodation was available at the Council’s ‘usual rate’, the Council should have paid to accommodate the woman elsewhere and should not have sought additional fees beyond the assessed contribution.”

Furthermore, while the government has confirmed its commitment to capping care costs, it does mean that the amount they pay within those boundaries will be calculated based on a realistic standard rate.

In addition, there is no mechanism in the current care reforms bill to enable individuals to challenge whether the baseline is fair or not through independent review.

The sympathetic and experienced personnel in the Elderly Care Department at Palmers Solicitors can advise on your legal rights regarding residential care. With our skilled advice, the potentially huge financial cost to families may be, in certain circumstances, dramatically reduced.

For more information, please visit our website or contact one of our fee earners.