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People from England ‘hopping the border’ to ‘take advantage’ of Welsh care home fees

PEOPLE from England are “hopping the border” to “take advantage” of more generous allowances on care home fees, a Welsh council boss has said. 

The finance officer for social care in Monmouthshire said that has meant the border county having to pick up the cost of people coming to Wales to avoid care home charges – contributing to a predicted £3 million overspend in its adult services budget. 

Tyrone Stokes, the county council’s finance manager for social care and health, dubbed the issue as “social tourism”. 

He was outlining cost pressures faced by the council during this financial year to a scrutiny committee when he said there are some care costs it has an obligation to meet. 

He told councillors: “In terms of the statistics in Monmouthshire we have still got an ageing demographic population, the same across the country, but in Monmouthshire we are quite attractive to people retiring, bringing in older people to the county, and we also do suffer from, and I use the term loosely so please forgive me, suffer somewhat from ‘social tourism’.

“Monmouthshire is an affluent borough and it borders a number of English counties and the charging regime in Wales is much more generous than England so we do see people hopping over the border to try and take advantage of those.

“So we do suffer a lot more than any other Welsh border authority because somebody in England could be closer to a care home, or care facility, in Wales than they are in their own English borough if that makes sense.”

People going into residential care in Wales have their fees fully funded if they have assets of less than £50,000 while the figure in England is £14,250.

The council has confirmed people from England can be eligible for help from it in meeting their care costs.

The committee was also told that from the start of the current financial year, in April, the number of people whose care the council is funding at homes, other than at the Severn View home in Chepstow, which it runs, had increased by 10 per cent, to 294 by September. 

That meant it was paying for an additional 26 people’s care, above the 268 places it was funding at the start of the year, contributing to a further £1.25 million in costs. 

Mr Stokes said to keep a control on costs the council now has a quality assurance panel to consider every care package which looks at issues such as whether reablement can be provided and the most appropriate care setting. 

A report for the committee said a “gatekeeping panel” looks at all requests for “high-cost care packages including residential placements”. 

It said part of the continued rise in residential placements is due to them being used when the cost of care at home is more than a residential placement. 

Monmouthshire council confirmed people moving into care homes in Monmouthshire, from England, can potentially be eligible for local authority financial assistance depending on a means-tested financial assessment in line with the Social Services and Wellbeing Act (Wales) 2014. 

A council spokesman said: “Before making any funding decisions, we consider all our options, including establishing where ordinary residence should be, as this establishes which local authority should be responsible.” 

The spokesman also said “many factors” are taken into account when considering a care home placement including location to the client and their family connections, suitability and availability. 

The committee report also said other underspends in the adult social care budget, including £1.1 million from a social care workforce grant, and £900,000 related to the My Day, My Life support service for adults with learning disabilities and care at home vacancies had helped ease the budget pressures but masked the “true underlying overspend more in the region of £5 million”. 

At a separate scrutiny committee it was confirmed when the most recent monthly invoices for care were issued by the council it invoiced 735 clients for care including at home, respite and day care and in addition 165 care packages were assessed as free of any charge.

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