United Kingdom

Thousands of vulnerable pensioners are hit with £125-a-week coronavirus 'tax'

Thousands of vulnerable pensioners are having to pay more for care homes because of the pandemic. 

Those who cover their own fees are being landed with extra 'coronavirus bills', according to research by Age UK. 

The charity said they or their families are being asked to stump up around £125 a week for personal protective equipment and the cost of covering staff absences. 

The residents already have to pay 40 per cent more than the local councils who fund those who have free care. 

Four in ten of England's 6,000 care homes have reported a coronavirus outbreak and 16,000 residents have died with the disease. 

Doug Meridith (left) and his wife Pat, who has Alzheimer's disease, and is living in Chestnut House care home in Crumpsall, north Manchester and claim the fees were raised by £75-a-week because of the coronavirus crisis

Many homes have seen their finances pushed into the red by costs 20 per cent higher than usual; it is feared that as many as 20,000 sites could go out of business. 

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: 'Older people living in care homes and their families have been through the mill these last few months as the virus has ripped through one in three of these settings, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. 

It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees. 

Where care homes face extra costs on account of the pandemic it's only fair that central government ensures they are met – otherwise there's a risk that some homes could fold, leaving their residents homeless. 

This would be bad enough at the best of times, let alone now when the virus continues to pose a threat, making it safest for everyone to stay put.' 

The Daily Mail is campaigning for a fairer social care system which does not discriminate against the 70 per cent of care home residents who have dementia. 

Ministers have allocated £1.6billion to councils and set up a £600million infection fund to help the care sector meet pandemic costs. 

But there have been complaints from some care homes that their council has failed to pass on the cash, leaving them to struggle to meet the additional costs.

Age UK said some care home residents are being asked to pay an excess charge of 15 per cent on top of already high fees. 

This amounts to £128 in England on top of the usual average fees of £851 a week. 

The 'coronavirus bills' are being levied due to the rapidly increasing costs of purchasing PPE and rising wage bills from covering statutory sick pay and absent staff. 

The majority of residents in England now have to pay for their own care

The bills are also going toward the need to meet the planned increase in the living wage, which the Government introduced without giving care providers any extra money. 

The majority of residents in England now have to pay for their own care. 

Recent estimates suggest there are around 400,000 residents in care homes in England, of whom 167,000 are self-funders and an additional 45,000 are part self-funders. 

Labour care spokesman Liz Kendall said: 'The Government must ensure care providers get the additional funding needed and stop providers passing on these huge additional costs to elderly and vulnerable people.' 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 'We have now made £3.2billion available to local authorities to address pressures on local services, including in adult social care. 

'We have also provided a further £600million to help reduce the infection rate in care homes.' 

Bosses at one care home threatened to hike fees by £300 a month to pay for PPE. Chestnut House in Manchester claimed it had no choice but to bump up 79-year-old Pat Meridith's charges to pay for the specialist masks and aprons. 

Her son Kevin said: 'My dad Doug pays the fees himself and is not by any means a rich man. 

'They had not given us any warning, just told us it is going up from May 1 and that's that. It is ridiculous, it is not right.' 

A spokesman told the Mail that they had since negotiated a lower bill. 

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