North East offers cheapest elderly care in the UK

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The North East offers the UK’s cheapest price for a care home, at £24,232 a year on average, according to research.

The average cost of a care home in the UK now exceeds £29,000 a year after rising by more than £700 over the past 12 months, according to figures compiled by a nursing agency.

Prestige Nursing + Care warned that the hike in costs means that those who need care in later life could have to sell their homes in order to raise the funds.

Quoting figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, the company said the average cost of a single room in a UK residential care home is now more than double the average pensioner’s income of £14,300.

The average price of £29,389 means that pensioners face an average shortfall of £290 a week if they require residential care, it warned.

The company said it is the first time care costs have grown at a faster rate than pensioner incomes since it began tracking the data three years ago.

The annual growth rate of care costs (2.5%) has more than doubled from 1.1% from 2013/14 - far higher than the current zero rate of inflation in the year to June 2015, it added.

The East of England has overtaken the South East to become the region with the most expensive care homes for the first time, averaging £33,800 per year - and has also experienced the biggest annual rise in care costs of any UK region (£2,912 or 9.4%), its research found.

The company said the East of England, London and the South West have all seen care home costs grow faster than regional house prices over the last year.

Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing + Care, said the issue was a “ticking time-bomb”.

“Care home prices are rising faster than ever, outstripping the rate of increase in pensioner incomes for the first time in three years,” he said.

“This is particularly concerning in light of the decision to defer the Care Cap until 2020.

“It means more people needing residential care will have to bear the brunt of higher costs themselves, especially as council cuts to care continue to impact eligibility for financial support.

“Raising the minimum wage - while absolutely necessary and well-deserved by nurses and care workers - will undoubtedly push up the costs of a care home even further, and widen the massive gap between people’s income in later life and the sums needed to pay for residential care.

“For those with emerging care needs, care at home can often prove to be far more cost-effective than residential care. It also allows people to remain in the comfort of their own home and maintain a sense of independence for longer.

“The issue of paying for care in later life is a ticking time-bomb that needs to be addressed and alternative solutions such as home care should be considered as a fundamental part of the solution.”