Social care 'not fit for purpose'
The social care system has been branded "not fit for purpose" after figures revealed elderly people are paying up to £7,000 a year for home care services.
Cllr David Rogers, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, accused the Government of underfunding local authorities, leaving councils with "tough decisions" over the services they can provide.
Statistics released by the Labour party showed marked rises in the cost of council services for elderly and disabled people over the past year.
Analysis of data from 93 out of 153 councils in England, showed there has been a 13% rise in the cost of meals on wheels, with the price of a meal rising from £3.17 to £3.44. There has also been a 33% increase in transport fees, with the average cost of travel to places such as day care centres now standing at £2.32 per journey.
Labour said the data also revealed a "postcode lottery" in the amount people pay for social care, with huge disparities across the country. People living in the London borough of Tower Hamlets pay nothing for personal care, while those in Cheshire East are charged more than £20 an hour, for example.
Cllr Rogers said: "These results highlight what we already know, the current social care system is not fit for purpose. It is underfunded and in need of urgent reform.
"We all want to know that everything possible is being done to ensure our elderly friends and relatives are treated with the dignity and respect they rightly deserve and councils are committed to doing the very best for people in later life. But councils are facing the long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs and despite their best efforts, they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide."
The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information law, showed elderly and disabled people are being charged an averaged of £13.49 per hour for home care - a rise of 6% in two years. This means someone who does not receive state help and gets 10 hours of support a week pays around £7,015 per year.
Mr Rogers said there was no "one-size-fits-all approach" and that different councils faced "very different pressures" in adult social care. "Decisions need to be taken locally," he added.
The Department of Health said: "Local authorities are responsible for non-residential care. Any charges they choose to make must be fair and affordable. The Government is providing an extra £7.2 billion over the next four years to councils so they can protect services that support vulnerable people."