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Call made for domiciliary care contribution in Wales to be increased

A SENIOR councillor in Carmarthenshire said he believed it was time that people receiving domiciliary care in Wales contributed more to the cost if they could afford to.

Domiciliary care enables mainly elderly people to live independently and stay at home for longer and is provided or commissioned by councils.

In Wales people contribute up to £100 per week to their domiciliary care costs – and the the £100 maximum can only be applied if a person has savings of more than £24,000, excluding the value of their home.

While £100 a week might sound a lot, the cost of providing care has been rising sharply because carers generally get paid more than they used to, and the £100 upper limit hasn’t changed since 2020.

The upshot is that the proportion of costs councils can claw back is dwindling, unless they scale back the care provided, putting more pressure on their social care budgets.

Cllr Alun Lenny, Carmarthenshire cabinet member for resources, said he felt the £100 cap should increase. “Everything else has gone up, and if you presume these people receiving care are elderly, pensions have gone up considerably,” he said. “The situation is so desperate in social care.”

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Wales is already far more generous than England in the way domiciliary care funding is structured, and its population is older. Let’s say you live in Wales and are lucky enough to have £50,000 of savings, you get to keep that money but you’ll be asked to pay up to £100 per week for your domiciliary care. That same person in England with £50,000 of savings will have to pay the full cost of their care – sometimes hundreds of pounds per week – until the sum decreases to £23,250, at which point the local authority will start contributing.

Domiciliary care is also more generous, from recipients’ point of view, in Scotland and Northern Ireland compared to England.

Raising the cap from £100 to £125 per week in Wales would benefit Carmarthenshire Council by an estimated £500,000 per year, which wouldn’t solve the social care funding question but would alleviate budget pressures.

Cllr Lenny described social care as the “poor relation” of the NHS as far as funding was concerned, but he pointed out that many elderly people were dependent on it as they were in hospitals.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), which represents Wales’s 22 councils, said it backed a rethink of the £100 cap. A spokesman said: “As local authorities grapple with mounting financial pressures and rising costs, exploring every avenue to alleviate these challenges is imperative.

“One measure is reassessing the maximum charge for non-residential care to help to take into account the escalating costs of care, a stance the WLGA has previously advocated for.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Welsh Government if it had any plans to raise the cap. A spokeswoman described the current financial situation as “incredibly tough”. She said: “We’re protecting the core local Government settlement – which funds social services and social care – providing the 3.1% increase (on average) to local authorities, as we promised last year. This includes funding to support authorities to meet the ongoing costs of the ‘real living wage’ for care workers.

“We are also carefully examining whether charges for some services, including domiciliary care, need to be raised in light of the current situation. Any decisions would only be made after a public consultation and careful consideration of those findings.” She added: “Our longer-term strategic vision is for a national care service in Wales.”

The charity Age Cymru said it didn’t think that raising the cap was the right step, and that a long-term sustainable funding solution was needed. Its chief executive, Victoria Lloyd, said: “The social care system and the way we pay for care both need fundamental change.

Seeking to raise additional money from those who need care will do little to achieve the investment needed to transform services.   

“Many older people live on low, fixed incomes, and are already facing higher food and energy bills as well as significant hikes in council tax.”

She added: “We’re worried that an increase in the cost of care will lead older people to cancel services that are keeping them safe and well.  This could have significant impacts for those individuals in terms of their overall well-being.”

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