The care funding postcode lottery

New Which? research reveals a postcode lottery for care funding, with local authorities in the south paying much more for long-term care compared to the north.

We submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 180 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and found huge variations in the standard weekly rate councils will contribute to the funding of residential care.

Generally, authorities in London and the south of England gave us the highest rates, while the lowest were in the north. However, areas that are very close together can vary widely in care costs. In Greater London, we found a difference of £138 for the standard weekly rate between neighbouring boroughs Bromley (£555) and Croydon (£417).

Our research also shows around a third (36%) of councils have a maximum standard rate of £434 for personal care, with more than half (53%) giving us a maximum of £435 to £539. One in 10 (11%) councils gave us a maximum of more than £540. The highest rate we found was Lewisham’s maximum of £768, while Blackburn and Darwen gave us a rate of £357.

Living in a care home can cost up to £1,000 per week and half of residents have part or all of their fees paid by the local authority. Many people top up this contribution themselves, and could face potentially high bills in areas where the local authority pays a lower proportion of the full costs.

We found big differences between the standard rate some councils pay and what the cost would be if you were paying for care yourself, also known as self-funding. In Exeter the council pays £442 to £471 a week, while the fees we saw for self-funders were £300 to £1,200. The variation in costs is partly down to local costs such as wages and property, and partly about individual councils negotiating costs with care homes when they bulk-purchase.

Which? Elderly Care offers practical information and advice about arranging care for relatives or yourself. This includes financing options available and this can be found by visiting The website includes a helpful tool enabling you to access information that is filtered to your situation and search by postcode for local care services.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Understanding the options available for long-term care can be a minefield, particularly with such huge variations in the funding available. People looking to make difficult decisions about care should use free, independent sources of advice, like Which?, to help them find the information that’s relevant to their situation.”

Notes to Editors

  1. We lodged Freedom of Information requests with 180 authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 161 gave us details of their standard weekly rate for care funding. In Scotland over 65s needing residential care get £171 a week for fees. They pay ‘hotel’ (accommodation and food) costs, unless they have little savings. Nursing care gets £78 more.
  2. Our figures on self-funding costs are based on a range of typical self-funder rates taken from those given in the online directory Self-funding figures are based on those for 5-10 homes for each location. Other homes may be more expensive.
  3. Which? Elderly Care is a free website offering practical information and advice about arranging care in the UK. The information on the site is aimed at relatives and friends of people in need of care advice but it can also be used by people arranging care for themselves. The site focuses on financing care, housing options and older people’s needs, such as dealing with dementia and memory problems and accessing local authority and NHS care and support. It also features a short questionnaire which enables people to access information that is filtered to their situation and they can also search by postcode for local care services. The ‘Care services directory’ uses data from the four UK care provider regulators.

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