We must be prepared to pay the bill for dementia care
- Credit: Contributed
The situation at the Care UK residential and nursing homes in Suffolk is a matter of great concern for anyone with family members or friends who rely on them.
But it is also a very complex situation to which there are no easy solutions.
On the face of it the problems lie with Care UK and its management and staffing levels at the new homes that have been opened this year.
The stories that have been emerging of experienced carers facing significant wage cuts is appalling. To come down from earning £306 a week to £262.80 is a massive earnings drop. It is not surprising that many staff decided to walk away and look for another job.
Care UK’s claims that it is paying the “industry average” has also raised eyebrows – Conservative health minister Dr Dan Poulter told me that bosses of independent care homes in his Suffolk constituency had told him they had happily employed former county council carers at the same wage they had been paid before the Care UK takeover.
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However, before Care UK is totally seen as the villain of the piece, we need to ask why it is trying to cut costs so sharply.
It might be politically attractive to see the company as a huge care business trying to make a massive profit from the care sector, but that isn’t really accurate.
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Care UK is a big business – but it isn’t very profitable according to its figures over recent years. In 2013 it made a loss of £30million which followed on from a loss of £3.5 million the previous year.
So it isn’t difficult to see why it tries to cut its costs.
And the company isn’t paid as much by the council for its care packages per person as it can get for private residents. Care UK is paid between £612 and £734 per week to look after people in its new homes – that’s considerably less than the council pays the company for looking after them in their old homes.
It’s also considerably less than care costs if it’s bought privately. Full dementia care can cost between £900 and £1,200 a week depending on the home chosen.
The county council tries to maximise value to keep down council tax bills, but in doing so it squeezes the companies providing care who in turn squeeze the wages of staff.
No-one wants to see council tax bills rise, but with more people likely to need care as more and more of us live longer and suffer from dementia, what other solution is there?
Economist Kate Barker has produced a report for the Kings Fund which has been studied by the government and says decent care would require extra money to be raised from National Insurance, which is seen by many people as an extra income tax.
Given that income tax is seen as the most evil creation ever by many people and a large part of the national press, it would take a brave government to implement her plans. So the question has to be asked: How much are we prepared to pay for dementia care?