Every year Prestige Nursing + Care undertakes a study into the cost of a care room in a care home – and each year’s results are more alarming than the last. This year’s study found that an average room in a home increased a massive ten times as fast as pensioners’ incomes did – which is more than twice as much as the rate a year earlier.

Over the last year, the annual cost of a care home increased by £1,536, while pensioner incomes rose by just £156 in the same period. The annual cost is therefore now £30,926 – the first time the average cost has exceeded £30,000 – and more than double the average pensioner income of £14,456.

This means there is an annual shortfall between care costs and pensioner incomes of £16,470, equal to £317 a week, should paying for care be required.

Why this matters to us all

These increases are particularly alarming when cuts to social care mean the vast majority of people will have to cover the cost of care themselves, and people will find the challenge of paying for care ever more out of reach.

On Monday, ex-Conservative Health Stephen Dorrell called the Government’s decision to give social care less and less money “insane economics and bad social policy”, and this was followed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) saying the sector is approaching a “tipping point”. The UK’s ageing population means that more people will be living with long-term conditions and will require care of some sort, but the widening gap between costs and income will make it difficult for many to afford the amount and quality of care they require.

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The number of people able to provide care will not keep pace with the number of elderly people requiring it, if current trends continue. The imbalance between the number of care workers and roles in the sector is stark, with Skills for Care estimating that there are 1.5 million care roles and just 1.2 million care workers. Resourcing is also likely to come under pressure with restrictions on immigration following the EU Referendum, and Independent Age estimates that some 80,000 people working in the sector are EU migrants without British Citizenship.

Why we must raise awareness of this crisis

As costs continue to rise, it is more important than ever to plan for requiring care later in life. At the moment there is too great a lack of awareness of the issues and no appetite to tackle them, which is why we, as a sector, need to change the way care is perceived and the value society places upon it. We have noticed there is typically a reluctance to plan for care, and industry and policymakers must increase awareness of the need to prepare for the cost of care earlier on in life. As a society, we need to become more open when it comes to talking about care, how it will be funded and family members’ personal preferences. This will mean people are ready to make an informed decision as and when the need arises.

Given the huge demographic and financial pressures facing care provision in the UK, it is clear that residential care is no longer the right model for meeting the needs of the elderly and vulnerable on a large scale. A report from the Care Quality Commission publicised this week highlights this, and comments that the pace of care home closures – 1,500 in six years – risks triggering the collapse of the sector.

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It is clear than an alternative is required which can meet the needs of the vulnerable needs on a large scale. Homecare can offer people good quality and affordable care, while also allowing them to maintain their independence. How we as individuals make provisions for our future care must now be raised up the political agenda.